Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The earnings tax's impact at KCPD

Kansas City’s 1 percent earnings tax presently is up for debate in the Missouri Legislature and up for Kansas City voters to renew in April. The proceeds from this tax make up almost 40 percent of the City's general fund, which primarily supports public safety, including the police department budget. Without it, police would be forced to make significant cuts.

If the tax goes away, the City estimates that 810 sworn officer positions would need to be eliminated. That’s more than 80 percent of the officers we currently have on patrol. In total, we currently have about 1,350 sworn officers, which include investigative, training and specialty elements.

Because of this estimated reduction, police response to some incidents would be significantly reduced and possibly eliminated, such as non-injury car crashes, burglaries, fraud and forgery incidents. Response times would increase, and elements like those listed below that were instituted through the earnings tax could be cut. A Northland patrol division station also could be eliminated.

The elements listed below have done a tremendous amount of good in our city. They have changed the lives of young people, found and stopped people who committed violent crimes, served the growing northern part of our city, significantly reduced illegal narcotics and the violence that goes with them, protected children from harm and brought justice for victims and their loved ones. If the earnings tax was eliminated, however, KCPD would have to devote nearly all of its resources to responding to 911 calls for service. We could not afford to staff these and other specialized units.

Here are the services and elements KCPD has added using earnings tax funds in the last 40-plus years:

D.A.R.E./G.R.E.A.T. Unit - The five officers in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Gang Resistance Education And Training unit reach approximately 3,000 Kansas City youth in 44 schools every year. Both programs are taught to children in grades 4 through 8, depending on the availability of the school’s classroom time. (One of the five officers is funded through the Jackson County COMBAT Tax.)

Police Athletic League – Their mission is to offer youth the opportunity to interact with police officers in a positive setting while participating in cultural, mentoring and sports programs with the main emphasis being placed on academics. The PAL program serves as a constructive alternative to anti-social behavior and boredom during their development years into adulthood. I’ve discussed some of the amazing work PAL does on this blog, and it’s become a national model. PAL is supported by donations, but the officers are paid through earnings tax funds.

Community Interaction Officers – These officers are the single point of contact for community members or groups to access a variety of not only police services, but community contacts and resources, as well. Each area of the city has an assigned representative (one at each of the six patrol divisions). These officers have contacts and relationships with community, cultural, church and professional organizations and strive to serve as a conduit to facilitate each working together for the benefit of the community they represent.

School Resource Officers – Two officers each are assigned to three high schools in the Kansas City Missouri School District: Northeast, Central Academy of Excellence and Southwest. The SRO program places officers in schools in an effort to create and maintain a safe learning environment and also create a positive image through interaction with students, parents, staff and administrators. The officers take a proactive approach with the students to help identify youth at risk, try to intervene with appropriate action plans, build healthy and trusting relationships with the KCMO Police Department and encourage a forward-looking approach to deal with the pressures today's young people face.

• Community Action Network – Six of these officers are assigned at three centers: Westside, Blue Hills and 49/63. They are the definition of “community policing.” They monitor issues within their assigned neighborhoods and work with a wide variety of departmental and City groups to combat the issues. They also do covert operations to follow known criminals in the KC Metro area in an effort to catch them in the act of committing crimes. Our CAN officers have been featured in the New York Times and in national documentaries for their work.

• Shoal Creek Patrol Division –
Serves a 75-square-mile area (for perspective, the whole city of St. Louis is 66 square miles) of northeast Kansas City that is home to about 90,000 residents. Officers respond to 911 calls, engage in proactive policing to prevent crime and work with community members and businesses. A dedicated Property Crimes Section investigates property crimes that take place in the division.

• Helicopter Unit – Officers in the unit fly approximately 1,700 hours per year. They assist in searches for missing and/or endangered adults and children, provide assistance to officers on the ground in locating individuals attempting to elude arrest, and provide information from overhead regarding police pursuits (traffic information to help officers safely pursue and apprehend individuals). They also gather information and intelligence to provide safety during large public gatherings like the World Series Victory Parade and rally, St. Patrick’s Day parade, large disturbances, etc. They provide coverage 15.5 hours each day, and are subject to call out. Kansas City Police also are the only law enforcement agency with a helicopter in the metro area, so KCPD Helicopter officers regularly assist other agencies on both sides of the state line. The helicopters were paid for through a combination of public safety sales tax and grant funds, but the salary of the officers who fly them comes from the Earnings Tax.

• Canine Unit – The Canine Unit does more than just apprehend suspects. They search for articles of contraband or evidence, locate lost individuals and bodies of the deceased, detect narcotics and search for any possible explosives at large-scale events. Ten officers, two sergeants and their 12 canine partners work 20 hours a day, and can be called out at any time.

• Drug Enforcement Unit –
All elements in the unit work in conjunction with federal partners to investigate and prosecute violent offenders. The unit has received numerous accolades from the U.S. Department of Justice for their work. This unit is readily available for 24/7 surveillance when requested. DEU is part of the Narcotics and Vice Division and is composed of the following squads:

- Interdiction – Members stop and investigate large quantities of drugs coming in and out of the city on mass transit, through shipping companies and more. In 2015, Interdiction members seized $46.3 million worth of narcotics and more than $1 million in cash in connection with illicit drugs.

- Career Criminal – Members go after repeat violent criminals involved in crimes like murder, robbery, kidnapping, shootings, and drug and gun trafficking. In the last couple years, members of this squad worked on such high-profile cases as the quintuple homicides in the Woodbridge neighborhood, the highway shooter investigation and Craigslist and convenience store robbery rings.

- Metro Meth – Members respond to, investigate and prevent methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution operations. This squad is the only regional group certified to dismantle clandestine labs in the metropolitan area.

- Administrative – Members work on cases involving prescription drug fraud and abuse and prepare search and arrest warrants for other members of the unit. They also make public presentations to schools, community groups and health centers regarding illegal drug recognition and trends. The squad works in conjunction with the DEA for the nationwide Drug Take Back initiative to safely dispose of all expired and unwanted prescription drugs.

- Undercover – Members investigate mid- to high-level drug activity. The evidence they gather is used in investigations of larger-scale trafficking operations for federal and state prosecutions. Members of this squad investigate heroin overdose deaths for supplier prosecution.

Crimes Against Children Section – These detectives investigated approximately 1,100 cases in 2015 in which an adult victimized a child age 16 or younger. The types of cases this section is responsible for bringing to prosecution include multiple types of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, endangerment, parental kidnappings and custody violations. Crimes Against Children also works with the Homicide Unit to co-investigate any incidents of a child dying as a result of abuse, neglect or endangerment.

Cold Case Investigative Elements – Detectives have reviewed thousands of unsolved sexual assault and murder cases in the last decade and have gotten justice for hundreds of victims and their families. The oldest case they solved was a homicide from 1969. While they continue to work cold cases, many of these detectives also now search for missing persons – both adult and juvenile.

Some people might question the need for such specialized units, but we are the largest police department in the largest city in the state of Missouri. These specialized services are needed to address crime that most smaller cities wouldn’t encounter. And our work with youth is critical, too. Many of the youth we work with grow up impoverished, surrounded by drugs and violence. Without some kind of intervention, they can succumb to the negative influences they’re surrounded by and become another generation of people who commit crimes that harm others’ lives and property. I view the work of our Police Athletic League, DARE/GREAT Units and School Resource Officers as a vital crime prevention service.

The services listed above were created with and are supported by the funds generated by the earnings tax. They are not a luxury. They are necessary to effectively police a large and diverse area like our city. But if the tax is eliminated, most – if not all – of these units could be eliminated, too. Remaining staff members would largely be assigned to respond to 911 calls.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

To stop homicides, issues from trash to school attendance need to be addressed

Where the body of a woman in a trash bag was located last week near 49th & Brooklyn.
When a rash of homicides like we’ve experienced lately in Kansas City occurs, many ask what can be done to stop them. They’ll say homicides are rising and out of control. We recorded 109 homicides in 2015, up from a near-record low of 81 in 2014. But 2014 was an anomaly. Since we started keeping consistent annual homicide stats in 1969, Kansas City, Missouri, has only had 10 years in which we experienced fewer than 100 homicides. This is not a new problem. When the crack epidemic struck Kansas City in the late 1980s and early 1990s, things were much worse. There were more than 150 homicides in both 1992 and 1993.

Homicides began rising precipitously when I came onto the department as an officer in 1986. And you know what? We were talking about the exact same issues then. Although murders are significantly lower now than they were in the early 1990s, then, as now, many asked how to stop the bloodshed. To answer that, we have to know why homicides are happening. There is no one reason, and none of the reasons are new.

I spoke at this week’s Board of Police Commissioner’s meeting about one factor that’s really stood out to me lately: the conditions of the environment where these killings take place. Several of our department members did an in-depth analysis of homicides from 2011 to 2014. They responded to almost all of the crime scenes and reviewed case files. On a map, they found that 75 percent of Kansas City’s homicides – as well as 75 percent of all other violent crime – took place in a 34-square-mile area (10.8 percent of the city’s total land mass), bounded by St. John Avenue on the north, 85th Street on the South, Troost Avenue on the west and Topping Avenue on the East. In fact, 90 percent of all violent crimes in Kansas City were associated with this area, meaning victims or suspects of crimes came from there, even if the crime didn’t take place there.

But there are neighborhoods in those 34 square miles that don’t experience high levels of violent crime. What’s different about them from the neighborhoods around them? The analysis found the following:

· Fewer vacant homes

· Residences posted as vacant and unsafe were quickly demolished

· Higher concentrations of churches and places of worship

· Working streetlights

· Well-maintained, occupied properties

· Well-maintained vacant lots

· New or well-maintained sidewalks and roadways

· Minimal trash

· Higher home ownership vs. rental properties

· Extremely active community associations and neighborhood watch programs

In short, there is a sense of pride and ownership in those neighborhoods. People look out for one another. At recent homicide scenes, I’ve seen trash everywhere, overgrown brush, blighted vacant houses, busted sidewalks and more. I mentioned at the Board meeting earlier this week that I’d be willing to forego some of our department’s request for officers to fund the demolition of vacant houses. I say this because I understand the budgeting issues city government faces, and I’d like KCPD to be part of the solution. The City Manager and Council have tough decisions to make, and I want them to know the KCPD is happy to do whatever we can to help make our city safer. In fact, members of KCPD, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, neighborhood volunteers and others have done several neighborhood clean-ups on the Prospect corridor to combat the types of environmental issues that lead to violent crime. Again, these are some of the same issues we talked about 30 years ago, and they still need addressing.

But there are so many other factors that contribute to violence. Many elected officials lately say the problem is guns. Yes, easy access to guns for people who shouldn’t have them is a problem. Without a doubt, guns have always been the leading cause of violent death in Kansas City. But guns are just a small piece of the issue. In seeking to stop homicides, we can’t focus solely on firearms, nor can we wait for someone else to do something that restricts access to them. We have to be creative and do what we can now. And by “we,” I don’t just mean the police. I mean the whole community.

From before people are born, things can be done that will keep them from heading down a path of violent behavior: proper prenatal care, early childhood education, parental involvement, staying in school until high school graduation. I would love to see the age for compulsory school attendance be increased from 16 to 18. Many of the violent crime suspects and victims we encounter have extensive juvenile criminal histories. Imagine how different those 34 square miles could be if they were filled with high school graduates! The Police Department certainly can’t do all those things. We have programs like the Police Athletic League that have turned kids’ lives around. Thanks to strong mentorship, those kids overcame significant obstacles. But there are so many more kids who need that kind of assistance than there are members of KCPD.

That’s where the community needs to step up: not just those living within those 34 square miles, but every other person in the Kansas City metropolitan area who is concerned about the safety and future of our city. Imagine what it would look like if everyone in this city helped clean up a neighborhood or mentor a young person in the urban core.

There are other issues that lead to violent crime, as well, and we’ve all heard many of them before. Mental illness and substance abuse are big ones. A person who would shoot into a home or vehicle full of people – sometimes children – clearly has a personality disorder and/or unhealthy thought patterns.

I’ve also seen that few of our violent crime suspects and victims tend to think very far outside of their own little world of family and associates. Not only do they miss the opportunities available to them outside of this small group, they miss the bigger picture entirely. They don’t believe in a higher power. They believe man is all there is. For me, that higher power is God, and serving him is my primary purpose. Without that belief in something bigger than them, the people involved in these violent crimes essentially live without purpose. As we have seen, that has incredibly destructive consequences.

I have responded to literally hundreds of homicide scenes in my career, and one of the most frustrating things to me is to hear the grieving family members and friends say, “We knew this was going to happen someday.” Our police department must continue to build relationships so these folks can trust us enough to come to us BEFORE anyone dies. If you fear for the life of someone because of the activity they’re involved in and the people they associate with, please tell us!

I’m willing to try anything that will make our city safer. I have requested money to hire 60 officers (we currently have 79 vacancies) in the upcoming budget. Human capital is important and needed, but it is not the answer to everything. Would ten officers working a single city block have as much impact as demolishing vacant houses, cleaning out trash and brush and improving infrastructure? I don’t know. But I think we all need to keep our minds open to whatever approach could decrease violence in Kansas City, Missouri, and then be willing to roll up our sleeves and help.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

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.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

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. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

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.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

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.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

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.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.