Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hot Spot Policing is making a difference

I have written about Hot Spot Policing on this blog before, and I wanted to share with you the impact it has had in the two-plus years we’ve been doing it. At the beginning of this year, we nearly doubled the amount of personnel who work in hot spots, which are the small areas of the city where the most violent crime occurs. Every officer, detective and sergeant on this department not in an under-cover position now works six nights a year in a “hot spot.” Essentially, this means there is an extra squad of officers in East, Central and Metro Patrol divisions during their busiest nights every week. In the first half of this year, hot spot personnel worked 7,216 hours. That’s 7,216 hours of additional police service in a six-month period for the residents of our city who are most affected by violent crime, and all of that came from our existing resources.

In 2012, 50 percent of all the city’s homicides occurred in two of our four hot spots. For years, all four areas disproportionately contributed to the number of murders in our city. As of this writing, two of the four hot spots have had zero homicides this year. That is remarkable, and it speaks to the hard work of our officers, as well as the hard work of the community. Overall, Kansas City is down by 24 homicides compared to this date last year.

In the first half of 2012, Hot Spot officers made an impressive amount of positive contacts with residents. Some played football with children, and others helped the victim of a domestic violence stabbing. Some assisted with juvenile issues on the Country Club Plaza and some arrested a man with a fully loaded handgun on drug possession charges right before he walked into a store. Two homicide detectives arrested a robbery suspect. In February, A sergeant attended one of our weekly intelligence-sharing meetings and learned about a robbery pattern along Main Street. That same day, two officers from our Research and Development Division were working hot spots and responded to a robbery call at Pancho’s at 3540 Main. They learned the suspect had likely gone to the 3700 block of Warwick. They waited outside in the cold and snow for an hour until they saw the suspect come out the back door of an apartment building, and he was apprehended. Further investigation found he was the person responsible for the other Main Street robberies.

I greatly appreciate the work our officers, detectives and sergeants are doing in hot spots, as well as the community response to their work. Let’s keep working together so that there someday may be no crime hot spots at all in Kansas City.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jackson County Prosecutor's Office gets justice for victims and families

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and her staff have brought justice to hundreds of victims and families in Kansas City, and I greatly value their partnership.

The Prosecutor’s office works with our detectives and officers on a daily basis to hold accountable those who commit crimes, especially violent crimes. Jackson County sends more killers to prison than any other county in Missouri. From 2009-2013, nearly 200 defendants went to prison for manslaughter and murder. That is far more than even St. Louis.

And when someone goes to prison for a violent crime in Jackson County, the state’s own sentencing report data shows they go for a longer time than violent offenders in rural and suburban counties.

In addition to ensuring that those who commit crimes receive the appropriate punishments, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office also is partnering with the community and our department to prevent violent crime before it happens. They have been a key component of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA). This focused-deterrence program targets those at the epicenters of criminal networks for aggressive police enforcement and prosecution. Meanwhile, it offers services and resources to those on the fringes of criminal networks who want to seek out a new path away from a life of crime. It’s showing promising results: homicides in Kansas City are down by a third from year-to-date totals in the previous five years.

As I’ve said many times, the criminal justice system needs the support of the community to make our community safe. More violent offenders end up in prison when we work together.

I have confidence in Jean Peters Baker and her staff to take on the toughest cases and see that justice is served in our community. 

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Come see the Police Athletic League under the lights of Arrowhead Stadium

I’ve written about the amazing things our Police Athletic League does for urban-core youth on a number of occasions, and this Thursday, they’re giving some of them an amazing opportunity they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

The PAL Predators tackle football team will play at halftime of the Kansas City Chiefs pre-season game at Arrowhead Stadium this Thursday, Aug. 7. The team will be made up of 10- to 12-year old boys, most of whom are playing tackle football for the first time. The PAL team is part of KC United, a sports initiative involving young people from all over the metro area. The goal of KC United is for leaders and mentors throughout the city to use sports to reach young people, part of the same philosophy used at PAL.

The Chiefs’ halftime game was set up by KC United to provide a few of the boys in the program a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand on the field at Arrowhead Stadium. Most of the players in the PAL football program have never been to Arrowhead, so actually playing on the field will be an experience they’ll always remember.

The PAL football program is in its third year of operation. Last year, more than 15 teams played at the PAL Center at 1801 White Ave., and the Center hosted many games. The championship games for four separate age divisions were played under the lights at the PAL field, which was a first for most of the young people in the program. The PAL eighth-grade team last year was undefeated, and the starting quarterback from last year's team is actually starting at quarterback for a local high school team this year as a freshman.

Through generous donations from local businesses and individuals, the PAL field is fully irrigated with a sprinkler system, has stadium lights and is professionally maintained by a local landscaping company. There is a new kitchen/concession area being built at the PAL Center, with most of the new equipment having been donated. The result is the kids are able to play at a very first-rate facility, and teams come in from all over the metro area to play on the PAL field.

Currently, the PAL football program has two tackle football teams, more than a dozen volunteer coaches and approximately 60 players involved. The program has doubled in size from last year, and the quality and caliber of the program is growing each year.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Open carry ordinance is wise

Today, the City Council wisely approved an ordinance prohibiting the open carry of a firearm. My role as Chief of Police is to ensure that residents feel safe and are safe. Allowing people to carry firearms openly within the city not only will cause residents to feel uncomfortable, it also will increase calls for service for someone being armed. Police cannot respond to these calls casually, and this creates a dangerous situation for all.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Homicides down in first half of 2014

Thirty-four people have been murdered in Kansas City so far in 2014. This is about 30 percent less than at the same time in the last five years. But it is still 34 lives lost senselessly, and we are working to lower that number. Today's Kansas City Star article does a very good job discussing some of our efforts to reduce violent crime. I encourage you to read it. But know that we cannot do any of these things without the support and cooperation of the community. The safety of our city depends on you.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Come join us on Nextdoor

Yesterday, we joined with the City Manager’s and Mayor’s offices to officially launch Nextdoor in Kansas City. Nextdoor is a free and private social network for neighborhoods. On Nextdoor, neighbors create private web sites for their neighborhoods where they can ask questions, get to know one another, and exchange local advice and recommendations. 

Once I heard about it, I immediately recognized the benefit Nextdoor could have to police and community safety. It can serve as a virtual neighborhood watch.

One of my primary goals as police chief has been for our officers to build positive relationships with the residents they serve. Nextdoor provides us the opportunity to augment those existing relationships online while fostering new ones.

We are training more than 80 patrol officers and sergeants to use and manage this system. They will be responsible for communicating with people in the geographic areas they police. They know the concerns and opportunities in these areas already and are best suited to interact with the residents they serve. The officers will be able to post information pertaining to their whole patrol division or down to their beats.

We don’t intend for Nextdoor to be a replacement for face-to-face contact, but rather a complement to what we’re already doing. We look forward to residents being able to provide us information about safety concerns in their neighborhood and working with them to address those concerns.

Similarly, Nextdoor will serve as a great tool for us in soliciting assistance. As police, we can only do so much. We need the eyes, ears and cooperation of everyone to make this a safer city. A whole neighborhood of people watching for criminal activity or a suspect is usually far more effective at deterring and solving crime than anything our officers or detectives could do.

Nextdoor is another tool in our social media belt. Our police department has had great success with it and in 2013 was named the fourth-most social media friendly police department in the nation.

More than 110 Kansas City neighborhoods already are using Nextdoor, and I invite you to head over to to sign up! (You can also do it on your Android or iPhone through Nextdoor's free app.)

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Highlights from my NPR interview

I was pleased to be interviewed on Central Standard this week on our local NPR station, KCUR. Gina Kauffman asked some very thoughtful questions. If you didn't get the chance to listen, you can read more about it and hear the full interview online. Below are some of the highlights from our Q & A:

On whether Kansas City is a safe city to live in

Over 50 percent of our homicides occur in less than a 13 square-mile area of the city. So if you look at the other 300 square miles of Kansas City, it's a relatively safe place to live. Most of our crimes are concentrated in our poor neighborhoods, neighborhoods where educational opportunities are not taken advantage of, places with [high] unemployment. We don't need a computer to tell you where the crime is going to be. We can tell you from some of the socioeconomic conditions and things like that. These are places where we've had problems and we'll continue to have problems.

A lot of times it's lifestyle. You know, we have very few random homicides. Most homicides [involve a] victim and suspect that know each other. Often times, they were close associates at one time. So if you're not involved in a high-risk lifestyle, your chances of becoming a homicide victim in Kansas City are slim.

On if more police officers are needed

Of course we can always use more officers. When we talked about the budget cycle for my first two years, I didn't ask for more police personnel. I wanted to make sure we were using the staff we had efficiently and effectively. Now that we're talking about the budget cycle again, I will ask for more because there's some other things we need to do. To me, you could never have too many [officers]. Like we talked about, the response times to the non-priority calls [need to be addressed].

On response times when crimes are reported

We have to prioritize. When we talk about a priority one call, that's a sexual assault in progress, or an aggravated assault where firearms are being used. There's only so many police officers in Kansas City. I think we have to do a better job of educating the public on these things. If you have a burglary and there's no one there and no immediate danger, it may take up to a few hours before a police officer arrives. I understand the victim wants an immediate response, but I think we need to do a better job of sharing some [other crimes] that are going on in the rest of Kansas City so they don't feel disappointed by those high expectations.

How social media is changing police work

I tweet from @ChiefForte. I try to put as much as I can out there. It helps to dispel some things. For example, you hear [people] talk about the Plaza. There might be two 13-year-old girls fighting on the Plaza, and the media says it's a "Junior Riot" the next day. So I go down there and tweet about the two girls fighting because we don't need that negative image on Kansas City.

On faith driving his energy and enthusiasm

My mom raised me to not worry about a lot of things and just know that there is a God. I pray everyday throughout the day. My grandmother is 91 years old, and I talk to her on a regular basis. She always says, "Baby, just keep praying. I don't care what's happening out there."

I don't miss sleep because I'm worried about anything, I miss sleep because my mind is constantly going. I have my iPad with me all the time so when I wake up, I start taking notes. It's think it's just my energy level, I've always been like that since I was a kid. Now that I'm 52, I need at least five hours of sleep. I don't always get it, but if I get five hours of sleep I can run all day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Remembering those who have fallen

Yesterday was our annual Memorial Service, honoring the 119 Kansas City Police officers who have died in the line of duty. Below is the speech I delivered on this occasion. I was honored to be joined by Officer Randy Evans, who spoke of how his father - also a KCPD officer - was killed in the line of duty when he was 9 years old, and how in spite of this, Randy decided to become a KCPD officer, too.

"Thank you all for coming here today to remember the lives of the 119 officers we have lost in the 140-year history of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. They are represented by the 119 flags you see before you. We also are celebrating the 13 years it has been since our department has suffered a line-of-duty death.

"However, I would be remiss to overlook the tragic death of Crime Scene Investigator Michael Chou last July. His shift had just ended, and when he was pulling out of the Crime Lab’s parking lot, he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. My thoughts and prayers – as well as those of his coworkers and the entire police department – remain with his family and friends. He technically was not on duty at the time of his death, but he was a bright and tenacious young man who left his mark at KCPD.

"We may not have had an officer killed in the line of duty since 2001, but their jobs remain very dangerous. Six times last year, our officers had to fatally wound suspects to protect their own lives. Five other officers had injuries so severe they had to end their law enforcement careers last year, and two more have done so this year. These career ending-injuries come from many kinds of dangerous situations, like a gun battle, physical struggles with suspects and car crashes. They all speak to the kind of dangers our officers are willing to face every day to serve the people of their city. They also are the kinds of things that keep our family members awake at night. I thank all the family members of law enforcement personnel here today, and I especially thank those whose worst fears were realized. Words cannot express the gratefulness and sorrow we feel for these family members of officers who lost their lives.

"We are doing everything we can to ensure no other family has to go through what Officer Evans’ family or any of these people sitting here did. Last August, instructors at our police academy began the Below 100 initiative. Below 100 is a national program that aims to bring line-of-duty officer deaths below 100 in a calendar year. The last time fewer than 100 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in America was 70 years ago in 1944. So far this year, there have been 45 line-of-duty-deaths.

"While innovations in medicine, training and protective equipment have brought deaths down from an all-time high of 278 officers killed in 1974, the current average of 150 per year since then is still far too high.

"Here’s how we’re making sure one of those tragedies does not take place in Kansas City: Every single entrant officer takes the Below 100 training right before graduating from the Police Academy. The course also is offered quarterly to current officers. It is free to our staff and those from any other agency who want to attend. The goal is to save lives, not make money.

"Below 100 centers on five tenets for officers, which address the top causes of line-of-duty deaths in American law enforcement. The tenets are: wear your seatbelt, wear your bullet-resistant vest, watch your speed, consider only what’s important now, and the fact that complacency kills. Everyone who undergoes the training gets one of these bracelets that says “Below 100” to constantly remind them of these things.

"Of the 119 KCPD officers killed in the line of duty, 73 died from gunfire. Another 18 were killed in motorcycle crashes, and 14 died in car crashes. Three were killed in helicopter crashes, and three others were beaten to death. Other officers in our history drowned while trying to rescue flood victims, were killed in a streetcar crash, were hit by a train, had a heart attack during arrest or died in a fall.

"Our Academy instructors, commanders, supervisors and I take the responsibility of properly training and equipping our officers extremely seriously. It is incumbent on us to ensure that every sworn member of our department has the knowledge and resources to go home safely at the end of their shifts. Some tragedies cannot be prevented. But we are working diligently to prevent those we can. I hope that the brave fallen officers who we remember and honor today would be proud of the steps we’ve taken to keep other families from enduring the same loss theirs had to.

Thank you."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bill would harm federal partnerships that reduce violent crime

Yesterday, I joined Mayor Sly James, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Richard Callahan, U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, in Jefferson City to speak out against a bill pending in the Missouri Legislature that seeks to nullify federal gun laws. I posted the mayors’ piece on this blog Monday.

I want to make clear that I support the Second Amendment, and I support the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. But parts of this legislation, dubbed “The Second Amendment Preservation Act,” do little to support the rights of lawful gun owners. Instead, it hinders some of the best tools we in municipal law enforecement have – federal partnerships – to reduce violent crime.

This bill would make it against the law for our officers to work with federal agents to enforce gun laws. Below are just some of the federal partnerships and programs in which we engage to fight violent crime, and they all would be in jeopardy if the Missouri General Assembly passes this legislation.

Last year, Kansas City Police worked with our federal partners to get 132 violent criminals off the street with federal felon in possession of firearms cases as part of Project Ceasefire. We also recovered 204 illegal weapons. In the first quarter of this year, we’ve arrested 34 felons in possession of firearms and recovered 66 illegal firearms. The primary elements of Operation Ceasefire are stopping illicit firearms traffickers and harsh federal prison sentences that give gang members and other criminals a strong deterrent to gun violence. House Bill 1439 puts this incredibly successful program and the safety of our residents in jeopardy.

Twenty KCPD detectives are deputized by federal agencies to enforce federal gun laws.

Our Career Criminal Squad alone has two FBI agents, two ATF agents, five U.S. Deputy Marshals, and one Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent. This Squad is one of the best in the nation at tracking down violent criminals, having arrested more than 200 federal fugitives in the last eight years. The majority of those fugitives have committed violent crimes with firearms. Again, House Bill 1439 would likely dismantle this Squad.

Last year, our Gang Squads arrested 21 violent gang members with the assistance of federal partners. They were charged on hundreds of federal counts – many of them weapons charges. So far this year, nine gang members have been arrested and charged with 66 federal counts. If HB 1439 were to pass, we could not continue this kind of enforcement, and gang activity would undoubtedly increase in Kansas City.

A total of 20 federal agents from the ATF, DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals and ICE are directly assigned to KCPD squads and regional task forces that investigate violent crimes and drug trafficking organizations. These cases involve large amounts of weapons offenses.

Our Kansas City No Violence Alliance, KC NoVA, has been a remarkably successful partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, and social services. It’s a focused deterrence program that targets our city’s most violent offenders while offering services to those on the fringes of criminal networks. It has taken murderers off the streets and given assistance ranging from literacy courses to substance abuse treatment to nearly 100 people. But it is built on partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors who enforce gun laws.

Working with federal partners to enforce gun laws is one of the most effective tools in our toolbox for preventing violent crime and homicides. I hope we can continue to do so.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Mayor: Bill violates a solemn oath, undermines a sacred freedom

Below is the text of an editorial written by Kansas City Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay discussing a bill that, if approved, could make our cities substantially more dangerous. I'm accompanying Mayor James to Jefferson City today to support him in his effort to stand against House Bill 1439. I ask that you contact your legislator to do the same.

Here is the editorial:

We are the mayors of Missouri’s two largest cities – Kansas City and St. Louis. We represent more than one out of every eight Missourians. Our communities are the centers of metropolitan regions that constitute Missouri’s two greatest economic powerhouses.

We have taken solemn oaths of office. We have pledged to support the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully discharge the duties of our offices.

These duties mainly have to do with keeping our communities safe and well, being good stewards of public resources, working to preserve and create good jobs, rewarding business innovation, meeting the educational needs and creating opportunities for our children, celebrating and promoting our rich cultural, architectural, historical and artistic resources, keeping an eye out for our seniors and extending a helping hand to those in need, welcoming new immigrants, and otherwise working toward just and vibrant and sustainable communities that embrace diversity and welcome and create opportunity for all.
A divided Missouri House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 1439. It purports to “preserve” rights to carry and keep firearms. The Missouri and United States constitutions speak to such rights. They are legitimate subjects of legislative attention and public debate. The same holds true for the authority and responsibilities of our federal and state governments. Reasonable people can differ on questions of the limits and scope of the authority of each, and which is best suited to meet what public responsibilities. Americans have been debating these issues since the dawn of our republic.

House Bill 1439 moves well beyond the boundary of reasonable debate. It is an affront to our communities. It is an embarrassment to the State of Missouri.

Simply put, House Bill 1439 represents a reckless attempt by narrow ideological interests to coerce us and other law abiding local officials into violating our oaths of office. The bill, if enacted, would do little to preserve legitimate gun ownership rights. It would do much to undermine the freedom of the people we represent and to threaten the stability of the communities we serve.

We will not be coerced.

House Bill 1439 seeks to intimidate local officials into disregarding settled interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and violating federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, regulations, statutes or ordinances.

We will not be intimidated.

House Bill 1439 would make it illegal for our police officers and local prosecutors to work with federal agencies in efforts to reduce gun violence in our cities. State lawmakers would empower street thugs and highway snipers, authorizing them to file lawsuits and recover attorneys’ fees against police and prosecutors who work with federal authorities to keep our communities safe.

We will defend our police and prosecutors and federal partners. We will not cower to political extremists. We will keep our communities safe.

Missouri lawmakers also take an oath of office. They solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States. A violation of their oath forever disqualifies them from “holding any office of trust or profit in this state.”

We intend to abide by our oaths. We expect Missouri’s lawmakers to abide by theirs.

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