Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Officers are impacted by shootings, too

We’ve seen several news reports lately of what first responders to the San Bernardino shootings experienced when confronting active shooters last week. That’s made me think about those officers and what they must be going through one week later. This was certainly a different circumstance than most officer-involved shootings. No one has questioned that they were justified in shooting the suspects. And the subsequent media coverage that followed has been unusual, as well, exploring what the officers went through. Usually when an officer fatally shoots someone, we hear about the person who died. The media shows the deceased's family and the grief they are suffering. And they are suffering. They have lost a loved one. No matter the circumstances, that loss is painful. But beyond their identifying information and the debate over whether what they did was justified, we don’t usually hear much about the officers – about what they’re going through after such an incident. I realize many would say, “It can’t be that bad. They’re still alive.” Yes, but many of them are forever changed. Their careers and families can be ruined. Some even take their own lives.

All officers involved in fatal shootings on our department must see a psychologist afterward to determine what, if any, assistance they need in the short or long term to cope with the trauma. I spoke with our licensed psychologist recently, Kay White, and she said the impact these incidents have on officers runs the gamut. But one thing she said they all have in common is that not one officer has ever indicated he or she was pleased about or satisfied with having killed another person. As I mentioned in my last post, no officer wants to take the life of another human being. But sometimes, we must. Below is a video we released of an officer-involved shooting six years ago in a South Kansas City park. You’ll see that it’s from two different angles. The officers saw the man strike a vehicle and flee. He drove off-road, and this is what happened (warning - the linked video contains disturbing images):

Ms. White told me the impact a fatal shooting has on an officer depends on several factors, but large among them are community support and media portrayals. If the public tends to stand behind the officer, that officer tends to suffer less psychologically. But Ms. White said she’s seeing more and more officers who are worried about the litigation involved with protecting themselves and/or others, and what impact possible litigation could have on their family, the department and the community.

Even for officers against whom there has been no public outcry, being forced to shoot someone can be incredibly traumatic. One of our officers was brave enough to tell his story publicly, so others would know they were not alone. This officer was one of three who responded to a man calling 911 last year who said he “had a psychotic urge to kill people.” Officers did everything they could to diffuse the situation, but when the man came out of his house and pointed a gun at one of them, they had to protect themselves, and all of them fired. The suspect died. A subsequent search of the man’s house revealed five loaded long-guns with large amounts of ammunition on the kitchen table and a note indicating the man intended to have a protracted gun battle with police officers. Prosecutors cleared all the officers of any violations of law. Still, one of them couldn’t sleep. He replayed the incident over and over in his mind. He stopped leaving his house. His wife and children didn’t know what to do to help him. He is now receiving the treatment he needs and has played a significant role in implementing mental wellness initiatives on our department.

Indeed, our psychologist said one of the primary physical symptoms she sees among officers involved in shootings is the inability to sleep. They have bad dreams. They can’t stop thinking about and replaying the situation. Adrenaline is pumping in them all the time, so they can never rest. They become socially withdrawn, anxious, irritable and afraid to go to work. They feel like no one understands what they’re going through. They don’t feel like they can tell anyone about their depression because they think it would be unacceptable in a law enforcement environment. I have seen too many of our officers who were medically retired because of mental health issues following a traumatic event. Sometimes that’s not a shooting. Sometimes it’s working the case of a murdered child or something equally horrific. Our department is working to ensure these officers are taken care of and given the time they need to recover emotionally before we send them back out on the streets. 

And it’s not just the officers who are impacted. Their families suffer, too. Ms. White said many family members will look at the officer differently after the event, or want the officer to quit his or her job because it’s too dangerous. Others want to “fix” the officer so he or she is like the loved one they knew before.

Pressure on family members even affects loved ones of officers NOT involved in shootings. After the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Mo., last year, the teenage daughter of one of our officers wrote a private message to our department’s Facebook page saying she was being bullied at school because her father was a police officer. She said she knew the danger he put himself in daily, even to protect people like the bullies, and she just wanted us to know she was very proud of him. And the family members of one of our sergeants who just happens to be named Darrin Wilson (the same name as the officer in the Ferguson shooting, but spelled differently) received death threats. (KCPD’s Sgt. Darrin Wilson, for the record, just won a Gold Award for Valor from the Metro Chiefs and Sheriffs Association for working with another officer – both of whom were off duty at the time – to stop a man who robbed a bank in a downtown office tower in January, planted a live bomb in the bank and then carjacked several people. That man pleaded guilty to federal charges of bank robbery and carjacking on Nov. 19 and is awaiting sentencing.) 

As you can see, the effects on officers from officer-involved shootings are widespread and varied. For many, that split-second decision in which they did what they were trained to do to protect themselves and others is life-changing. They may not have lost their lives, but some will never be the same.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Media coverage of police influences public perception

Soon you will see newspaper and television stories about officer-involved shootings in Kansas City. They likely will feature emotional statements from loved ones saying they wish the shootings never had to happen. Those of us in law enforcement wish the same thing. The very last thing any officer wants to do is take the life of another person. Everyone misses a loved one when they are gone. Because of this, I understand that the family and friends of those left behind are grieving and questioning the necessity of it all.

But when a life-threatening situation presents itself, officers cannot act on what they would like to happen. They don’t have that luxury. They must act on the facts as they know them at the time and take what actions are necessary and legal to protect themselves and others. And unlike the extensive analysis of the incident that so-called “experts” on 24-hour news stations can conduct in the aftermath, officers usually do not have the luxury of time as an incident unfolds. They have fractions of a second to determine whether someone is presenting a threat to their life or the life of another.

We have seen what irresponsible reporting by the media can do. While protests over the death of a man in police custody raged in Baltimore in May, a national news network reported that Baltimore police had shot and killed a protester, nearly inciting another riot. That was not at all true. Police instead arrested a man with a gun. The network retracted the report. But not before it already increased unrest and police distrust in the city. Once the relationship between the community and police is damaged, it may take years to repair it.

Most news organizations – local or national – are not so reckless as to report complete falsehoods. But presenting emotion-heavy stories, out-of-context videos and putting “experts” on television or in print who don’t know all of the facts of an incident is a disservice to everyone. Police investigations of officer-involved shootings are based on facts. Trained detectives with years of experience in criminal investigations determine the facts of the case. Those facts and findings are then presented to a prosecutor for a determination of whether police acted within the law. Emotions cannot be a factor in conducting a fair and unbiased investigation, and the public should expect no less. And as the Department does with any other criminal investigation, once an officer-involved shooting investigation is closed, the case file is made public, in accordance with the Missouri Sunshine Law.

Fostering distrust between police and the community is a reckless thing to do. Everyone’s safety is put at risk when communities lack the trust to work together to fight violence. We have seen violence spike in recent years in communities where residents don’t have a good relationship with law enforcement. I blogged about that earlier this year. I have worked my entire career here at KCPD to build trust between the department and residents, and it has been one of my top priorities as Chief of Police. And from the feedback I’ve gotten, we’re making real strides.

I’m not saying that we are perfect. If one of the 2,000 members of this department violates policy or the law, we want to know about it, and we will work to correct it as quickly as possible. We have proved as much by taking such allegations seriously. For example, the Office of Community Complaints – an independent civilian oversight organization – was one of the first civilian oversight offices for law enforcement to be established in this country. When a KCPD member has violated the law or department policy, he or she will be held accountable.

But we invest heavily in training to avoid such violations of the law or department policy in the first place. From one call to the next, our officers must be social workers, paramedics or conflict mediators, and we try to prepare them for every situation they may face. Our officers are well-versed in everything from responding to an active shooter to city ordinances.

A city where law enforcement and other community members work together and trust each other is a safer community. It’s a place where people feel free to come to police with their fears or to provide information to capture someone who has committed violence in their neighborhood. Propagating stories to get ratings or readers that rely solely on emotion, or out-of-context snippets undermines that relationship, and ultimately undermines the safety of the city.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thank you for celebrating with class, Kansas City

These last few days have been huge for our city, and I am extremely proud of how everyone has conducted themselves. The Royals’ World Series win has brought a national spotlight here, and the people of Kansas City have shined. The night the Royals clinched victory, we didn’t have a single arrest related to the game or the following celebration. That fact made national news, from USA Today to TMZ. It was not news to anyone here. It’s what we expected.

That classiness has continued today. With hundreds of thousands of people piling into just a few square miles of our city, we made very few arrests, and those were for very minor incidents. Despite the traffic and the crowding, everyone was happy and civil. I and the other members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are so proud to be part of and serve this community. Our officers worked very hard today, but the people of Kansas City made their jobs enjoyable.

Friday, October 9, 2015

A refresher on call prioritization

I posted the below blog two years ago, but it bears repeating, so I'd like to share it again. The stats in it have remained pretty steady. We continue to receive complaints that officers don't respond to lower-priority calls as fast as residents would like. We must allocate our resources efficiently, and deploy them when and where they're most needed. Here's the blog I originally posted in August 2013:

We sometimes hear complaints that police don’t respond as quickly as people expect to certain types of incidents. The most common complaints are for calls about burglaries, car break-ins and non-injury accidents. We have a finite number of officers, so we must prioritize calls in which someone’s life or safety is at risk. Our policy very clearly outlines what types of calls receive priority, but here’s a little more succinct version that our dispatchers follow:

Priority 10: Assist the officer, send immediately

Priority 11 – 13: Calls where there is imminent danger to a person’s welfare (always lights and sirens on), send immediately

Priority 20: Calls where there is a potential danger to a person’s welfare (lights and sirens on if the incident is currently in progress), send within 2 minutes

Priority 30: Calls where the quality of the police response may be degraded if there is a delay, send within 5 minutes

Priority 40: Calls where a delay is acceptable

Priority 50: Calls where a delay of up to 4 hours is acceptable

Last month, July 2013, our median response time for Priority 10 calls (encompassing 10-13) was 7.42 minutes, and it was 9.78 minutes for Priority 20 calls. This is the time from the moment a 911 call is received to the moment an officer arrives on scene.

Consider this snapshot in time: at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, there were 13 units (police cars manned by one or two officers) working in the Central Patrol Division. None were free to take any calls. All were tied up, responding to the following: two assaults, two injury crashes, a stabbing, investigating a suspicious person report, meeting an ambulance, meeting with someone who found a child reported missing and transporting an endangered person to a domestic violence shelter. Another had to testify in court. Two calls were in queue waiting to be dispatched whenever an officer became available. One was a 911 hang-up, and the other was a non-residential burglary.

Although it was a Priority 30 call that was to be dispatched within 5 minutes, the burglary caller had been waiting 65 minutes for police to arrive. I understand that person was probably frustrated. I know victims of property crimes often feel violated and scared, but it would be irresponsible for police to respond to their calls for service before a call in which someone’s safety is currently being threatened. It’s not because what happened to the burglary victim is not important, but like any organization, we must manage our resources as efficiently and responsibly as possible.

As we work to continue improving relationships with the community, it’s important that we keep expectations realistic. Police can’t always show up to non-emergency situations as soon as residents prefer, but we do our best to help those who need us most as quickly as possible. 

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Area-specific violence is being addressed

Some recent acts of violence have prompted inquiries about possible rashes of crime in different parts of our city. I’ve heard concern about the old Northeast and the 18th and Vine entertainment district among other areas, lately. 

Let me assure you that no area of the city is having an abnormal outbreak of violent crime. As I discussed in my previous post, homicides and assaults with a weapon are up this year compared to the record-low last year, but we still remain well below where we have been for the last four decades. All other types of crime in the city are down.

This is not to say we aren’t doing everything we can to prevent and solve crime and make people feel safe. I’ve talked a lot about our prevention efforts on this blog, ranging from the Kansas City No Violence Alliance to deploying extra resources to hot spots. There are so many other things happening. Weekly intelligence-sharing meetings keep everyone in patrol and investigations abreast of the most serious crime trends, suspects and problem areas. We then deploy the necessary resources – from increased police presence to covert operations – to stop the criminal activity. These intel-sharing efforts have gone down to the patrol division level, too. Your local officers work with schools, businesses, prosecutors, non-profits, and most importantly, of course – residents – to identify patterns of crime and ways to prevent them. The officers who work in your neighborhood know the areas experiencing issues, and they usually know who is engaging in criminal behavior. They need your help to further identify those suspects and get them into custody. And detectives need community assistance to gather enough evidence for successful prosecution.

Let me share a recent success story of all these pieces working together. The Historic Northeast neighborhood was recently plagued by a burglar who broke into victims’ homes while they were still inside. Crime analysts and district officers recognized the pattern and deployed resources ranging from extra patrol to cameras to under-cover officers. Neighbors and East Patrol officers held a community meeting to discuss the problem, actions residents could take to prevent crime and how to assist police. More than 100 people came to the meeting. Afterward, the burglar was caught and linked to about 20 crimes. This was an excellent collaboration between residents and police.

Similar work is happening in the 18th and Vine area. Central Patrol Division, the Vice Unit and the City’s Regulated Industries are working with business owners in the entertainment district to address violence that has erupted there. Additional officers also will be deployed at busier times like nights and weekends. Everyone should feel safe patronizing Kansas City’s entertainment districts. They are an integral part of our culture and make our city unique. KCPD constantly works with the management of these districts, as well as the businesses located within them, to ensure a safe environment. We also have excellent partnerships with the private security agencies who work in these areas. Everyone’s goal is to provide a fun place where people can enjoy themselves without fear.

Once a crime takes place, we also devote significant resources to solving it. During the first two weeks of September, Kansas City experienced multiple homicides. The Violent Crime Division alone expended more than $60,000 on overtime those two weeks. That is 1,206.3 extra hours put in by a few squads of detectives in just two weeks to solve these cases. That does not include the work done by crime scene investigators, analysts at the Crime Lab, or specialized units like the Illegal Firearms Squad, Career Criminal Squad or the many others who are involved in investigating these cases, arresting suspects and submitting cases for prosecution. We also have victim advocates who work every day with violent crime victims and their surviving loved ones.

We have incredibly dedicated people who work around the clock to get dangerous people into custody and provide justice. They work long, hard hours to ensure those who commit acts of violence will be stopped before they can hurt others. And as always, they need the help of other segments of the community to make that happen.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The status of 2015 homicides in Kansas City

Many media reports recently have given the impression that Kansas City’s homicide rate is much higher than normal. I’ve heard rumors that gangs or drugs are the cause. None of this is true. I’d like to clarify exactly what’s happening with murders in our city and shed some light on what we’re doing about them.

As of this writing, Kansas City, Missouri, has had 72 homicides in 2015. At this time last year, we had 57. Last year, we experienced the lowest number of homicides in 42 years. It is discouraging we have more so far this year, but it still remains below where we have been in almost any prior year in the last four decades. And with the exception of homicides and aggravated assaults (assaults with a weapon), every other category of crime defined by the FBI is down in Kansas City so far this year. As of August 1, total crimes were down by 5 percent.

Kansas City continues to avoid the deadly outbreaks of violence that have plagued other cities of our size. I posted about this earlier this summer. As of Sept. 22, for example, St. Louis has 148 homicides – more than twice those in Kansas City (and our population is greater by about 150,000).

The murders here aren’t the result of some gang or drug war. More often than not, they occur between people who get angry with each other and choose to settle their conflict with a firearm. (Sixty people have been murdered by firearms in Kansas City so far this year.) Of the 51 homicide cases so far in which detectives have determined a motive, 22 of them were the result of an argument. Domestic and family violence accounts for the second-highest number of homicides by motive, with 16. And it’s not just among intimate partners. We’ve had cases of an uncle killing his nephew, a step-son killing his step-father, and a woman’s boyfriend killing her toddler son while he babysat him. Cases like that are incredibly sad and incredibly difficult to prevent.

We’re taking many steps to reduce homicides. I outlined some of those in this post. Those efforts include everything from lethality assessments to prevent intimate partner violence by getting victims to safety, to the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, to the Police Athletic League.

But as I’ve said many times, police are only part of the solution. We can’t be at every family gathering at which an argument breaks out and someone pulls out a gun. We can and have identified who is most likely to commit acts of violence and then targeted them for either aggressive prosecution or social services through Kansas City NoVA. But we can’t be everywhere or know everything. We can’t prevent everyone who shouldn’t have a firearm from having one.

Fortunately, the community has been working alongside us like never before. We will continue to build and nurture relationships in hopes of establishing trust so members of our community feel encouraged to contact us before a crime occurs.

And after crimes occur, we’ve seen witnesses step up and give vital information to solve many of our most recent killings. Just this weekend, more than a dozen people came forward in a homicide that took place in a crowded area. In years past, witnesses in that situation tended to just scatter and never speak with police. Things are very different now, and I am very grateful for this increased cooperation. A community full of people who make it known that violence will not be tolerated – and that the irresponsible use of firearms will not be tolerated – is ultimately what will reduce the number of homicide victims in Kansas City. The Kansas City Missouri Police Department is ready and willing to assist in that endeavor.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Survey shows increased citizen satisfaction with KCPD

The results of the Kansas City’s annual Citizen Satisfaction Survey were released last week, and I’m very proud of how our department did. Satisfaction with overall quality of police services increased by 3 percent from 2014, which was the greatest increase of any major city service this year.

An increase of 3 percent may not seem like much, but given the scrutiny law enforcement has been under during the past year, I think it’s very impressive. A series of officer-involved shootings and excessive force incidents began last August and led to great distrust and dissatisfaction with police around the country.

In Kansas City, I have asked the members of our department to instead focus on building trust and fostering relationships with the people we serve. We still have a long way to go, but we have made tremendous strides. At a time when other cities are seeing rioting and skyrocketing homicide rates born of reduced confidence in law enforcement, 3 percent more Kansas City residents report satisfaction with the quality of police services they receive. At 66.1 percent, it’s the greatest percentage of satisfaction since the City started asking the question in 2012.

There also were significant increases in satisfaction in three other police areas compared to last year:

· City’s overall efforts to prevent crime is up 6.2 percent

· Effectiveness of local police protection is up 4.6 percent

· How quickly police respond to emergencies is up 2.1 percent.

Again, I think this is tremendous given the overall feelings about law enforcement in the past year. It shows that our department members by and large are different from those who have made national headlines. The most prominent headlines KCPD members made this past year were for getting caught on camera interacting with urban-core youth, rescuing dogs and working with other members of the community to bring Kansas City’s homicide rate to its lowest level in 42 years.

We have much more work to do, however. There is still much distrust that must be overcome, and building relationships that do that is one of my highest priorities. I thank the members of this department who are breaking down barriers of mistrust every day, and I thank the other segments of the community who are doing the same.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

During intense scrutiny, a message for KCPD members

I shared the below message today with all the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, and now I'd like to share it with everyone. I appreciate all the support our department has received from the community, and I look forward to continuing to build even stronger relationships between police and other members of the community. Here's the message that went out to KCPD members this morning:

I want to thank all department members again for their service in keeping our community safe. I am not the only one. In fact, most people appreciate what you do. They support you and want you to know how important you are to our community. Even Governor Jay Nixon said when he was at our Headquarters yesterday that he recognizes the difficulty of your job and what a valuable service you provide. He also said the Kansas City Missouri Police Department is a model that other law enforcement agencies in the state should follow.

Under the intense scrutiny law enforcement has faced, I continue to be proud of the dedication and professionalism the members of this department exhibit. This weekend will mark the first anniversary of the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that sparked so much of the police scrutiny. Negative attention on law enforcement in Kansas City and across the nation likely will come in media reports and from other sources. Do not be discouraged. I know our members are here to protect and serve with professionalism, honor and integrity, and we will continue to work with the community to make our city safe and strong.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Current vacancies at KCPD

There have been some reports in the media lately about the number of vacancies on our department. I wanted to provide some of those numbers for the sake of transparency.

Our total number of budgeted law enforcement positions is 1,438. However, we haven’t been at that level since 2008. At this time last year, we had 1,395 law enforcement officers. We now have 1,358. So we have 37 fewer officers than we did at this time last year, for a total of 80 law enforcement vacancies.

We typically make up for attrition through two police Academy classes per year, composed of between 40 and 50 recruits. We have 10 recruits currently in the Academy, and no other classes scheduled at this time to stay within our budget.

The majority of our law enforcement staff is in the Patrol Bureau. These are the officers you see on the streets. That Bureau has 63 law enforcement vacancies right now, compared to 74 at the beginning of 2014. That’s not quite comparing apples to oranges, though, because the Patrol Bureau gave up 25 spots later in 2014 to form the Violent Crimes Enforcement Division. This group now is assigned to the Investigations Bureau and is charged with seeking out individuals who are identified as being involved in violent criminal activity. The Violent Crimes Enforcement Division Officers essentially provide a proactive patrol function. They don’t usually answer 911 calls for service, however.

The Patrol Bureau also is down 20 civilian staff members, who serve in positions such as desk clerk and detention officer. Sometimes, officers have to be pulled in off the streets to fill these positions. Overall, our department has 112 civilian vacancies, compared to 79 at this time last year.

Some patrol divisions are hurting more than others. North Patrol has 13 vacancies, the greatest of any division. Each patrol division commander must engage in a delicate balancing act to ensure there are enough officers on duty 24 hours a day to answer all the calls for service in their division in a timely manner. This can involve everything from overtime to using reserve officers. We have 11 more reserve officers right now than we did at this time last year, for a total of 37. Most reserves are officers who have resigned or retired from KCPD. They keep current on training as any other officer would, and they work on a volunteer basis. Reserves must work a minimum of 288 hours a year, which equates to about 6 hours weekly. Additionally, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, an extra four officers and a sergeant are assigned to hot spot areas in the East, Central, and Metro patrol divisions. Every sergeant, detective and officer on this department not in an under-cover assignment must work six days annually in a hot spot assignment. 

Could we use more officers? Certainly. Being fully staffed could lead to reduced response times and allow officers greater flexibility in time off and for proactive work. But we are good stewards of the resources we have. We are doing everything we can to ensure the community’s needs for safety and security are met, and we appreciate residents’ cooperation with us in doing so.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Kansas City not experiencing same homicide increase as other U.S. cities

As outlined in USA Today last weekend, many cities across the country are seeing an increase in homicides. The article points out cities like Milwaukee, Baltimore, New Orleans and St. Louis have seen their murder rates increase by more than a third compared to the same date last year.

We have worked with the community to enact many measures to prevent that from happening in Kansas City. And it’s paying off. As of this writing, Kansas City, Missouri, has experienced 38 homicides in 2015, which is one more than at this time last year. But for many years prior to that, we averaged more than 50 homicides at this point in the year. With 80 homicides recorded in Kansas City last year (a few more were ruled as such by the Medical Examiner since I last posted about 2014 homicide rates), we experienced the city’s lowest homicide rate since 1972. That was not a fluke. The trend is continuing into this year, and I expect we will continue to see fewer and fewer murders.

Of course just one homicide is one too many, so we are working to prevent every one we can and hold accountable the perpetrators in those we can’t.

One of my strategic objectives when I became Chief of Police was to reduce homicides in our city. We have undertaken many efforts since then, and we saw them start to come to fruition last year. I outlined many of those in this previous post, including everything from the Kansas City No Violence Alliance to the Police Athletic League.

I also think one of the biggest differences between other cities experiencing increased homicides and our city is the cooperation between residents and police. More community members than ever before are coming forward to share information with us, let us know about problems in their area and work with us on a day-to-day basis to keep their neighborhoods safe. My first priority action under my strategic objective to reduce homicides is to, “Remove barriers that currently exist between the police department and the community in order to build trust and establish productive, open lines of communication.” That is happening.

The members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department have put forth tremendous effort to gain the trust of the other members of the community they serve. I am proud of what they have done and will continue to do. A city whose residents work with and trust law enforcement is a safer city. With this partnership, I think we will avoid the spikes in murders occurring in other places across the country. 

Because of the work done by our department members, law enforcement partners, community leaders and residents on building relationships and working as a community to solve our problems, the Kansas City metro area also has not had to deal with the continual negative media attention other cities have had to wade through. I appreciate our local media reporting events responsibly. This has been a benefit to our community, so we can focus our efforts toward continuing to build a better tomorrow. 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Officers need breaks, too

You surely have heard about a Texas police officer who has now resigned over the way a cell phone video depicted him treating a teenage girl too roughly at a pool party. If his lawyer is to be believed, there are previous incidents that contributed to his actions at the pool party. That same day, the officer purportedly had responded to a suicide in which a man shot himself in front of his children. He tried to console the man’s wife and then had to take pictures of the body. Also that day, the officer is reported to have talked down a teenage girl who threatened to commit suicide by jumping off a roof. His lawyer said, “He allowed his emotions to get the better of him.”

I don’t know whether that’s true, and if it is, I can’t say whether it exonerates anything he did. But if all that is true, it is a recipe for disaster. Expecting officers to go from traumatic call to traumatic call leaves them emotionally unhealthy and thus unable to perform as we expect them to: with professionalism and integrity.

Our officers see the worst society has to offer, and I’m making it a priority to give them time to decompress from that. I’ve heard about too many officers who have been involved in a critical incident, get three days off, and then they’re thrown back into work and left on their own to deal with everything. Then a few years later they get medically retired because they’re suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s no way to treat your people. The Kansas City Missouri Police Department is focusing on whole-person wellness now more than ever before.

I want to make sure officers tap each other out if they’ve handled a stressful call, and I want our supervisors to encourage that.

One simple change we can make is ensuring our officers get time to eat. Too often they run from call to call to call for 10 hours straight. We’ve got to stop trying to be superhuman. We need nourishment and rest, not only for our health but also to serve our community well.

When I was an officer, we got in trouble for having too many police cars parked outside one restaurant. I'm now sharing with staff and other segments of the community my desire for officers to be and feel safe while taking breaks, so there will no longer be emphasis placed on the number of vehicles at any given location. Officers eating together provides them an excellent opportunity to decompress. They get the chance to talk about what they have experienced and what’s bothering them. They can give each other support. Of course call volume will continue to be considered. But increased ambush-type incidents on officers have emphasized the old adage that there is safety in numbers. Many of you reading this get the chance to go out to eat with your coworkers. Officers should be able to do the same. Or simply have the chance to sit down at the station and eat the meal they brought.

We have sometimes put public perception above officers’ well-being. We worried what people might think if they saw four or six officers eating together instead of responding to a burglary call. We’re doing things differently now. Officers’ health needs to be a priority.

Community needs will of course be paramount, and officers always will respond to emergencies in a timely fashion. (Our median response time to Priority 1 calls was about 7 minutes, 50 seconds in May.) But we need to do more public education about our call prioritization. Although we understand how scary a home invasion can be, if there are no suspects in the home or nearby, we often must prioritize other calls before that. This blog I did about call prioritization two years ago still holds true: Actual or potential harm to people always will be the first thing to which available officers respond. And if there are several of those calls, it could be hours until we get to the burglary call. We have finite resources, and we use data and intelligence to deploy them as effectively as possible.

And amid all those calls, our officers may need to grab a bite to eat. And I’m going to encourage them to do so.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

KCPD officers are taking advantage of Save a Warrior program

I've put a big emphasis this year on the overall wellness of our department members. I wrote about it on this blog last month, and now I want to highlight one of the programs I mentioned, Save a Warrior. Six KCPD members now have graduated from it, and it's featured in this month's issue of our Department's newsletter, the Informant. I've pasted the text of the article below, and I look forward to seeing how this program can help more of our members.

Officer Adam Baker was unprepared for what would happen after he was in a fatal officer-involved shooting.

With all his Marine and KCPD training, he thought everything would be fine. But then came the night terrors. Then no sleep for four days at a time, and anxiety that rendered him unable to leave his house except for appointments with the Department psychologist. One medication after another. A wife who was terrified and didn’t know what to do to help him.

“It made me really feel like I’m broken, and I can’t get fixed,” Officer Baker said.

Then one of the Department’s psychologists, Kay White, suggested Baker try the Save a Warrior program. After launching in Malibu, Calif., it came to Kansas City last fall. It is “an innovative, evidence-based program that provides a powerful healing experience for active-duty military, veterans and first responders who are suffering from post-traumatic stress,” according to the organization’s web site. The site states 22 “warriors” commit suicide every day in the United States.

Adam Magers, the project director of Kansas City’s Save a Warrior program, attended the one in Malibu and thought it was so powerful and life-changing that he wanted to make Kansas City the organization’s second location. The first K.C. cohort, or 5-day course, took place in fall 2014.

Magers said Save a Warrior’s founder, Jake Clark, was a military veteran but also had served in the FBI, U.S. Secret Service and at the L.A. Police Department.

“He had just as much drama from law enforcement as he did from his time in the military, and it took him 13 years to overcome it,” Magers said. “… If there’s anyone who needs this program, it’s police officers.”

Los Angeles Police officers have found great success in the program, so when it started here, Magers wanted to see if Kansas City Police would be interested. An architect working on the Headquarters renovation project, Dale Duncan, runs the Spencer Duncan Make it Count Foundation in honor of his son, who died when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. The Foundation supports organizations that help veterans, including Save a Warrior. He introduced Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Commander Captain Darren Ivey to the program. Then he, Ivey and Magers sat down with Chief Darryl Forté, who agreed it would be an excellent opportunity for officers experiencing post-traumatic stress. The Spencer Duncan Foundation and Kansas City Royals Charities have so far paid for KCPD members to attend. It costs about $2,500 per participant for the cohort.

Officer Baker said it’s not just for people like him who are involved in critical incidents. It’s also for officers who experience hardship day after day and never get to decompress.

“After you have to see an abused or dead baby during the day, how are you supposed to act when you go home to your own kids at night?” he asked. “You have to push that stuff down. It builds up.”

Captain Ivey presented about Save a Warrior at a commanders’ meeting in April. He told the commanders to let him know if they knew of anyone who could benefit from the program.

“I was still presenting, and my phone started blowing up with e-mails,” Captain Ivey said. “They said stuff like, ‘This person would be perfect,’ and ‘I’d like to volunteer.’”

He said he was surprised by the outpouring from his fellow officers because many view police as macho, stodgy and unconcerned about emotional well-being.

“It seems we’ve evolved,” he said. “Overall wellness is really becoming part of our culture now.”

Officer Baker was part of the first group of three KCPD officers to go through Save a Warrior. Another three graduated as part of the 13-person cohort on May 8. Baker said the program focuses on how warriors throughout history have been able to overcome trauma, and it offers things like meditation and peer support as tools to do so. The majority of people who come to Save a Warrior are suicidal, according to the organization’s web site. Baker said he hadn’t reached that point yet, but he was in enough pain to know he needed something quickly.

“It literally is like looking in a mirror when you go there,” he said. “You really understand that all of us are going through the exact same problems.”

Officer Baker said that thanks to the program, he is healing and has regained his sense of self-worth. He went back as a “shepherd” with the May cohort, to serve as support and share his experiences.

For more information or to donate to the program, go to

Friday, May 15, 2015

Remarks from 2015 Police Memorial Service

We conducted our annual Memorial Service yesterday to remember the 119 officers who have died in service to our city since 1881. It was part of National Police Week activities - a week dedicated to fallen officers across the country. Below are my remarks from yesterday:

Again, thank you for coming to the 2015 Kansas City Missouri Police Department Memorial Service. I’m pleased to be back here in front of our newly renovated Headquarters building. If you’d been here before the renovations, you’ll notice that our memorial statue now is in a much more prominent and accessible place. It’s now at ground level, so everyone who passes by can read the 119 names inscribed there. And the original KCPD memorial is just to the south, also now at ground level so the public can read and appreciate the sacrifices made by the members of this department over the last 140 years.

In many ways, our officers are safer now than they were, say, in the 1920s, when three or more were killed annually. That was the deadliest decade for our department. We now have things like bullet-resistant vests and advanced training, which I’ll talk more about in a bit.

Last year, we started a tradition of having surviving family members of our fallen officers share their experiences. I’d now like to ask Trudy Meyers to come speak. Her husband, KCPD Officer Tom Meyers, had 25 years of service in law enforcement when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver on January 14, 1998. I’d like to invite her to tell her story now.

-Remarks by Trudy Meyers -

Thank you, Mrs. Meyers, for sharing your experiences. Nothing I can say can change what happened or ease the sting of your loss.

Law enforcement remains a dangerous profession, and recent incidents of civil unrest across the nation have made it even more so. Police are under more scrutiny than ever before, and some people are willing to commit violent acts against officers. After several years of decline, American law enforcement officer deaths increased by 24 percent in 2014, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. A total of 126 officers were killed in the line of duty last year. Firearm-related deaths spiked by 56 percent, accounting for 50 officer deaths last year. And perhaps most frightening, ambush was the leading cause of felonious deaths against officers.

But I can assure you we are doing everything we can so no other Kansas City Missouri Police Officer’s family has to endure what the Meyers family did. There are so many people behind the scenes who work to protect our personnel out on the street, and I wanted to recognize some of them today. The lives of our officers indirectly rest in their hands, and they get little recognition for that.

To start with, I’d like to recognize our training staff at the Academy. They lay the foundation for all officer safety. Our officers know almost everything they know about how to handle situations with professionalism and caution because of our trainers. The Academy staff provides recruits with nearly eight months of training in everything from firearms to legal studies to defensive tactics to first aid. They conduct research into best practices and always are updating their approaches. At this service last year, I spoke about the Below 100 training two of our drivers’ training instructors developed for KCPD. It now is required for all sworn personnel. The goal of this training is to reduce officer fatalities nationwide to fewer than 100 each year. This is just one example of the innovative work our trainers do. They also provide annual training to officers to keep their knowledge, skills and abilities in top form. When officers must make split-second, life-and-death decisions, they must rely on their training. Surely you’ve heard someone say, “I just went back to my training.” The work our Academy staff members are doing provides that critical training, and it has served KCPD officers very well. 

Once they’re out on the street, the lifeline of every officer is the dispatcher. Calltakers and dispatchers work together to provide officers with the information they need to be prepared to enter any situation. They keep track of where the officers are so they can provide whatever resources the officers need, from back-up to an ambulance. They are expert multi-taskers, and our officers rely on them for their safety.

Of course the officers could never talk to a dispatcher if they didn’t have their radios and other communication equipment. The folks in our Communication Support Unit install and maintain this technology. This equipment is absolutely mandatory for police to do their job and do it safely. And this isn’t the equipment we used when I came on the department 29 years ago. More than $20,000 in equipment goes onto every patrol car, including video cameras and recorders, in-car computers, E-ticket printers, LED light bars and so much more. Even the radios are no longer just radios. They’re all small computers. The officers know if anything goes wrong with any of those pieces of equipment, they can’t do their job safely. They also know they can count on the staff of the Communication Support Unit to get it up and running again as quickly as possible, even though that unit maintains radio equipment for the entire city’s fleet of vehicles.

And the cars that those officers drive are maintained by the Fleet Operations Unit. A properly functioning vehicle is essential for keeping officers safe and serving our residents. Forty-nine officers died last year in traffic crashes nationwide. Despite the amount of miles and rough driving our cars endure, Fleet Operations personnel make sure they’re running as well as possible.

The Supply Unit ensures every officer is properly equipped with all the tools they need to do their job and keep them safe, from ballistic shields to bullet-resistant vests.

There are other less obvious positions supporting officer safety. Much of the animosity toward police in the past year has been driven not by people’s actual experiences with police, but what they saw in the news and social media. Our Media Unit works constantly to build trust and support for our officers in the community. Just take a look at the department’s social media pages some time and see the tens of thousands of people on them who support the KCPD. There always will be people who want to harm us simply because we are police officers. But the Media Unit works hard to create a positive perception of police and create champions for our officers in Kansas City. Ultimately, that enhances officer safety.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the people who help prevent police fatalities here but get very little public credit for doing so. I could go on and on about these behind-the-scenes folks, from the Benefits Section to the Fiscal Division. The officers know how valuable they are, but rarely does anyone at a podium say so. I’m glad I got to do so today.

I also want to thank Trudy Meyers for her touching remarks about the loss of her husband. And to her and all the survivors here today, words cannot express our sorrow at your loved one’s sacrifice in service to their community. We offer you our continuous support. We also want you to know there are hundreds of people here working to ensure no other KCPD officer is killed in the line of duty. I mentioned many of those groups today. In addition to thanking an officer for their service when you see one, I’d encourage everyone here to thank our other staff, as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We're making changes to enhance community trust and officers' well-being

Whenever unrest between police and residents breaks out in other cities, our local media often ask me to comment about it. I don’t do that because I don’t want to lose my focus on improving trust here in Kansas City.

That said, I certainly am not oblivious to what is happening with police in other places. I actually spent time in Ferguson, Mo., today to talk to residents there and learn about their concerns. Law enforcement is under more scrutiny than ever before. That’s why we’re constantly working to build relationships with other segments of our community, rethinking the way we approach volatile situations and ensuring that our members are well enough mentally and physically to protect and serve with professionalism and integrity.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve learned about many of the ways the members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are partnering and building trust with other community members. (I say “other community members” because we live here, too, and also are part of this community.) The latest initiative we undertook to ensure trust was earlier this month on Election Day. I appointed one of our captains to be an election liaison. His job was to investigate any complaints of officers interfering with the election process (something that happened during an unfortunate chapter of KCPD history in the 1930s), such as any officers intimidating or interfering with voters. One anonymous caller informed us that he thought he saw police officers passing out campaign material. The election liaison went to the location and investigated, but he couldn’t find anything. That was the only reported incident. We will continue using the election liaison at all future elections.

We’re also trying to change the way our officers think about volatile situations that can lead to officer-involved shootings. At this year’s in-service training (required for all officers), we’re teaching a course about tactical disengagement and redeployment. The instructor of the course, Sergeant Ward Smith, describes the idea well: “I can remain in this same position, and I’ll have to use force. But if I use tactics and training and think my way through this, I can pull out of this location and avoid shooting it out with someone.” This is a change of mindset for many. Throughout the history of law enforcement, we’ve had the idea of “never back down, never retreat.” We are encouraging and training our officers to use critical thinking and problem solving to avoid a situation in which they have to shoot someone to protect themselves. This is easier said than done, because oftentimes situations unfold rapidly, leaving officers seconds or less to make decisions. Although we've stressed critical thinking and problem solving in the past, with Sergeant Smith's training, we’re emphasizing the idea that there may be other options. Ultimately, however, we’re only in control of our actions, not the actions of suspects. When a suspect endangers the life of an officer or innocent person, that officer has the legal right to protect himself or herself and others using lethal force.

Our officers are trained to administer first aid and call for an ambulance at the earliest and safest opportunity when lethal force is used. Officers on this department are taught that if they are forced to shoot someone, and if that person is no longer posing a threat to them or others, the officer should immediately render medical care. Their care has kept those they’ve shot alive while awaiting ambulances on too many occasions for me to recall.

Our officers now must qualify on their firearms twice a year. But it isn’t just about hitting a target. A big part of this semiannual firearms training is threat assessment. It’s just as important for officers to know when not to shoot as it is to know when to shoot. Officers are tested in a number of shoot/don’t-shoot scenarios and must pass them to remain in service.

But all the training in the world won’t help an officer who isn’t well enough to effectively do his or her duty. I don’t just mean physical wellness. I’m putting a big focus this year on the overall wellness of our department members. One of the major components of this is addressing secondary trauma. First responders like police officers (and civilian staff like dispatchers and crime scene investigators) see and hear the most disturbing and evil things our society has to offer. They regularly see murdered bodies, abused children, mangled victims of car crashes and more heinous things that are unthinkable to most other people. They deal with angry and grieving loved ones. They are placed in stressful and life-threatening situations.

Those things undoubtedly have a physical, emotional and mental impact on officers, as they would on any human being, and can lead to devastating consequences, both on and off the job. Officers can experience compassion fatigue. In an attempt to protect themselves psychologically, they can stop caring for others. Cumulative secondary trauma also can change the way officers’ brains and bodies respond to things. They become hyper-vigilant and act out of a fight, flight or freeze state. That’s not safe for them or the people with whom they interact. Off the clock, secondary trauma also can devastate officers’ personal and family relationships.

We’ve teamed with Truman Behavioral Health to create training to address this issue. The first course was offered to KCPD employees this month. By the completion of training, participants should be able to define and identify secondary trauma and risk factors; describe the mind-body connection to secondary trauma in work and life; complete a variety of assessment tools; and practice, reflect upon and develop coping skills to build resiliency for self and peer support. Several peer support initiatives are underway, as well. We already have several informal groups meeting whose members are coping with a variety of issues from work and home, and we plan to expand and formalize those. We’re often so busy helping others that we can forget we need help, too.

Some of our officers also are participating in the Save a Warrior program. The Kansas City Star did a great feature on it a few weeks ago. It seeks to help those who have been in the military and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Our department has many military veterans.

These are just some of the many ways we’re trying to better care for our people so they can better care for their community. We’re sponsoring a peace rally at 10 a.m. this Saturday at 31st and Prospect. I want members of our department to come together with other members of the community to rally for peace in our city and our nation.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Answering questions about my compensation

Recently, some members of the media have asked questions about my compensation, particularly for my after-hours work. I am happy to share that information with everyone because it is not at all an issue. It’s a public record, and it should be public because I am compensated with taxpayer dollars. Full disclosure is a must for a public servant. Public servants also must be good stewards of the funds with which they are entrusted. 

Oftentimes when I speak to young men, I share with them they can be and do anything in life, and that with determination, focus and – most importantly – a strong faith in God, that any goal can be achieved. My goal early on in life was to become a police officer. As I have maneuvered around many obstacles while ascending the rank structure of the police department, I have realized that opportunities existed and have taken advantage of those opportunities. Some of those opportunities included furthering my education, to serve as a mentor and to be mentored, and to engage non-traditional segments of the community in crime reduction strategies, among others.

Too often, the young men I engage in conversation have no hope for the future, no goals and just an overall feeling of despair. My story is and will continue to be, work hard, and you will be successful in whatever field you elect to pursue. I share with them that my starting salary on the police department was $20,000 a year, and now my yearly salary is nearly $186,874. Job satisfaction, a desire to serve others as well as a commitment to endure regardless of obstacles placed in your path is more important than financial compensation. Do not get me wrong, financial compensation is needed because I was taught at an early age that if a man does not work, he does not eat! 

I hold no ill will to those who perceive my compensation to be excessive. As long as I serve as the chief of police of our great city, I will give nothing but my best, as I have during my 29-year with career with this great department.

To do that, I don’t just work during business hours. The safety of our city is on my mind nearly all the time. I don’t wake up to a clock. I usually sleep from midnight to 5 a.m. on a good day. I think it is very important for me to be out engaging the community and responding to incidents. How much is it worth to the city to prevent large-scale civil unrest, which has the potential to cost a lot more than any overtime I may accrue? I have and will continue to respond to potentially volatile situations. I am not a sit-in-the-office kind of guy. Being visible in the community is necessary and has proven beneficial, especially during the recent incidents of civil unrest around the country. One of my top priorities has been to reduce violent crime, and last year we experienced our lowest homicide rate in 42 years. I also like to keep in touch with our front-line officers and staff and see first-hand the good work they’re doing.

Members of our department who are in managerial positions (captain or above) earn compensatory time instead of overtime pay. Per policy, they can earn up to 160 hours of compensatory time (but can only be compensated for a maximum 120 hours upon retirement). I am not bound by these restrictions. I serve at the pleasure of the Board of Police Commissioners, and they have not placed a limit on the amount of compensatory time I can receive. However, they do keep tabs on it and have previously requested my balance. Currently I have more than 1,800 hours of compensatory time accumulated. This amount is cumulative from many years of work and because I rarely take time off. To use it all up, I’d have to be gone for months, and I refuse to do that.

Although permitted by policy, I rarely submit requests for compensation for less than three hours worked. Policy permits compensation for 7 minutes or more worked in excess of an eight-hour work day. I feel I am blessed to be able to serve our community with a great salary, so there is no need to receive extra compensation for everything I do. I do not routinely submit requests for overtime.

In fact, I have never submitted overtime for any incident of civil unrest where I only observed from afar, nor have I ever submitted overtime for any work performed while at home. It is 4 a.m. as I write this. I am starting my day by preparing notes for this blog. My day is scheduled to end after 7:30 p.m. if all goes well. There will not be, nor should there be, any extra compensation received for today. I make regular appearances on early television morning shows for no compensation. Due to prior incidents of unrest, I spend most Friday and Saturday evenings on the Country Club Plaza during the summer and tweet to let the public know about what’s happening there, which also is mostly uncompensated.

My salary is in line with previous KCPD chiefs. When the prior chief left in 2011, his salary was about $180,000. Previous police chiefs also received compensatory time just as I do, and I am not aware that their use of it ever was questioned. Regardless, I understand I am a public servant, and I must remain open about the way I operate and use taxpayer money.

At the end of my career, I can elect to remain on payroll after I physically leave the department to draw down my compensatory balance over time, or I can receive lump-sum compensation for any leave balance.

Again, I felt a strong desire to share with everyone about my compensation since several media outlets have shown an interest. There has not been and will never be any misuse of taxpayer dollars. I will continue to earn every penny of my compensation as I focus on reducing crime and helping people be and feel safe!

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Monday, April 6, 2015

On the Plaza, we'll engage at the level necessary to prevent crime

You might have heard about an incident on the Plaza this weekend in which young people were destructive to property. The situation on the Plaza is not unique to the current teenage generation, nor are the issues unique to Kansas City. In 1983, I recall the street dance era when many African-American youth visited the Plaza on the weekend to participate in the break dance craze or to watch the talented dancers. African-American youth were not welcome on the Plaza then, and the police were not shy about expressing that we were not welcome. When I was 21 years old, a police officer approached a friend and me to tell us that we were not welcome on the Plaza, and he asked us to leave. We questioned him about his desire for us to leave and he responded by grabbing me by the shirt, which resulted in my button being pulled off. I remembered his name.
Upon joining the police department, I met the officer. He was very stern in his communication to others and was respected by his peers. That’s changing. The KCPD is making great strides with building and nurturing relationships in other segments of the community and will continue to do so.

Today's method of policing on the Plaza is based on respect, with less emphasis on enforcement than in decades past. Officers, both on duty and those working off-duty security for the Plaza, have shown a great deal of respect and patience for the youth who visit the Plaza. As I have communicated previously, everyone is welcome to enjoy all parts of our city. All I and others ask is that everyone – old and young alike – adhere to the laws and be respectful of themselves and others. We will not tolerate behavior that jeopardizes safety or behavior that involves any type of destruction of property. Patience and understanding will be shown to everyone, and a zero-tolerance strategy will not be deployed. There is no reason to punish the law-abiding majority for the negative actions of the minority. Those who enjoy the Plaza will dictate our response – we will engage at the level necessary to prevent crime and to keep everyone safe.

For the parents, guardians and others who are concerned, please help us keep our kids safe by setting a positive example, speaking encouraging words and by explaining why it is important to be good citizens. Also, please share curfew times and guidelines with those who are impacted by them.

Mayor Sly James and I regularly discuss Plaza-related issues and often times discuss how we might better provide opportunities for our youth. During the school year, we encourage young people to focus on their school work, be part of school-related activities, join a mentoring program or even get an after-school job. In the summer, the Mayor's Nights and Club KC are several venues where our youth can have fun in safe environments. The time is approaching for the commencement of the Mayor's Night athletic programs and Club KC. The programs begin on May 23, continuing through August 15. Last year, juvenile crime decreased by 18 percent while Club KC was in session. Let's try and show a greater decrease this year.

As a reminder, individuals age 17 and younger are subject to an 11 p.m. curfew on weeknights and a midnight curfew on weekends up until the Friday before Memorial Day. From the Friday of Memorial Day weekend until the last Sunday in September, the curfew is set at 10 p.m. for minors 15 and younger. For minors ages 16 and 17, the curfew is set at 11 p.m. in most parts of the City.

The City’s five entertainment districts -- the Plaza, Westport, Downtown/Central Business District, 18th and Vine, and Zona Rosa -- have a special curfew during those summer months that requires anyone under 18 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian after 9 p.m. during those summer months.

Thank you, Kansas City, for being such a great city, and let us continue to keep our city safe, vibrant and inviting!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Gunfire continues trending downward in ShotSpotter areas

We began using the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system in October 2012, and it has continued to bring about positive results. The system monitors 3.5 square miles of the urban core that historically have had a high incidence of gunfire. We recently received data from SST Inc. (ShotSpotter’s parent company) to indicate a significant reduction of gunfire in those areas from 2013 to 2014.

Kansas City experienced a 15 percent reduction in gunfire incidents in 2014 compared to 2013. You might recall that there was a 26 percent reduction from the first half of 2013 to 2014. The latest data show the decrease continues, and that means our residents are safer.

SST Inc.’s studies have shown that as much as 80 percent of illegal gunfire goes unreported. Thanks to ShotSpotter, our officers have been able to respond to and make arrests in shootings that police might otherwise never have known about. On average, our officers respond to at least four ShotSpotter calls every day.

So why are the incidents of gunfire trending downward in these neighborhoods? There are many reasons, but I believe the primary one is community engagement. Sadly, hearing frequent gunfire had become common in these areas. Residents didn’t report it because they were scared or thought police wouldn’t do anything about it. Now they see that we are doing something about it, and we are here to make their block safe again. When we show up at these shots fired calls now, people come out of their homes to ask us what is going on. They are learning that we will be there and they can talk to us.

The ShotSpotter Flex system from SST Inc. is a partnership between the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), with federal funding for the project secured by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. The $720,000 grant funds five years of ShotSpotter service, equipment installation, and maintenance. As we come into year three of the service, we will continue to seek funding sources to keep ShotSpotter going and possibly expand it.

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