Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Proposed budget cuts would mean loss of 400 police personnel

A reporter asked me at a press conference on Monday how helpful the 200 additional federal agents were who came to Kansas City to help us amid an unprecedented spike in violent crime for Operation LeGend. After I said how much those additional resources helped, the reporter asked what a 400-person reduction to our department would mean to solving and preventing crime. Quite frankly, it would be devastating.

We are already doing our part to help in these tough economic times. We’ve cut $5.6 million from the current fiscal year’s budget this summer. Like other city departments, we are being asked by the City Finance Department to provide scenarios for what an 11% budget cut would look like for fiscal year 2021-22. That’s nearly $26 million for us. To make that number, we would have to reduce about 400 employees, and the remainder would have to take two-week furloughs. Below I’ll outline some of the proposals we’re considering to meet those numbers, and then I’ll share what that means to the average person who lives, works or visits Kansas City:

  • Close North Patrol Division (which serves about 67,600 people across 84.8 square miles) and consolidate it with Shoal Creek Patrol Division; and close Central Patrol Division (which serves about 62,300 people across 17 square miles) and consolidate it with East Patrol. That removes one-third of police stations in Kansas City.
  • Eliminate the Helicopter Unit, a Traffic Enforcement Squad, Community Interaction Officers, School Resource Officers, Police Athletic League, CAN Centers, social workers and a majority of Impact Squad officers, who proactively address crime. All of those officers would be reassigned to patrol and answer 911 calls.
  • Reduce property crimes detectives.
  • A hiring freeze and no new Academy classes in 2020 or 2021. We would lose more than 120 police officers through this.
  • A reduction of 13 people at the Kansas City Regional Crime Lab.
  • Eliminate numerous support staff positions in areas ranging from information technology to fleet operations.


· When you call 911

- When you call 911, you will likely be put on hold.
- Response times will be longer. Response times will be greatest north of the River and in the Southland. You can see on this graph what our current response times are by division. At minimum, increase that by 11%.

- Service may be diminished.
- If you do report a crime, there will be fewer detectives to investigate your crime.
- We will have to prioritize response to violent crime. It’s highly likely we will have to stop responding to non-injury crashes, car and home break-ins and other property crimes. Victims would be asked to report those to police stations, themselves. Only the property crimes with greatest losses would be investigated.
- Crime Lab backlogs will slow the ability to solve cases.

· In the community

- All of our positions that focus on community policing would have to be eliminated to focus on our core mission of answering 911 calls and investigating violent crime.
- The people who need police service the most are our most economically disadvantaged. They’re who call 911 the most and have the least resources. They are who our social workers assist. They are who will be hurt most by cuts to the police department.
- All youth programming would be eliminated. This carries greater costs. The Police Athletic League, for example, is funded by a 501c3 that pumps about $500,000 a year into the urban core. That community investment would go away.
- Reduced traffic and parking enforcement.
- No new hires means no additional way to have staff who reflect the community. The Academy class we already cut this year was set to be our most diverse ever.
- Reduced Internal Affairs detectives could impact officer accountability.
- Our community already has stepped up over the years to provide funding for equipment needed to solve and prevent crime and enhance officer accountability, such as license-plate readers, body-worn cameras and ballistic helmets. What does this mean for all of their contributions?


  • The last time we took a major budget hit was in the recession of 2008. It took us 10 years to come close to regaining the staffing we had then. It takes about a year and a half to recruit, process, hire and train a new police officer on our department. We had more than 1,400 officer positions prior to 2008. We’re now at a little more than 1,300.
  • These reductions would put us at less than 1,000 officers. The last time that occurred was in 1970. After the passage of the 1% Earnings Tax in 1971, we hired 200 more officers. Does Kansas City really want to go backward 50 years?
  • We have had an unprecedented increase in violent crime in 2020. One can only imagine how that will change with reduced law enforcement presence and reduced investigations.


We have implemented numerous reforms the public has requested. Among these are implementing body-worn cameras, having an outside agency investigate officer-involved shootings, changing our policy to explicitly include the duty for officers to intervene in an excessive-force situation and revising our tactics during protests.

We already cut $5.6 million from the current fiscal year’s budget. We eliminated 90 positions and canceled all Academy classes. In the reduced economy that has arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic, we realize sacrifices are needed.

Just like many families have had to do in the past six months, we’ve had to prioritize our budget. That is something the Kansas City government must do now. In the most recent Citizen Satisfaction Survey, residents placed police services as their No. 2 funding priority, just below street and sidewalk infrastructure.

If we do have to make a 400-person reduction, everyone who lives or works in Kansas City will still pay 100% of their taxes, but they won’t get the same police service they're used to. The residents and businesses of Kansas City have come to expect a certain level of police service that they will no longer receive. That, in turn, can have an economic impact on people wanting to do business and live in Kansas City, which would perpetuate budget problems.

These cuts are not a foregone conclusion. City leaders have a choice to make between now and when the new fiscal year starts May 1, 2021, and they will base much of that on what they hear from residents. We look forward to residents participating in these discussions.