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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