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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Monday, March 9, 2015

Revisiting bullying in the workplace

I have said publicly many times over the last several months how important it is that the members of KCPD are OK. And I mean OK physically, mentally, emotionally and many other ways. Because if they’re not OK in some way, it can affect their own safety and the service they provide. We want capable individuals to have satisfying careers here, and sometimes that can be derailed by how they’re treated within their own organization. Thinking about the well-being of everyone who works for the Kansas City Missouri Police Department reminds me of this post about bullying I wrote in September 2013. I wanted to share it again today, not because of any particular incident or pattern, but because it remains a concern of mine and because how it is handled can contribute to the success of our organization:

Heavy on my heart this morning is the subject of bullying – not cyber bullying, bullying at school or even sibling bullying – but workplace bullying. Bullying is not solely germane to those more commonly discussed areas. It frequently occurs in the workplace. 

I began writing this blog at 2:39 this morning. For some unknown reason, the topic was weighing on me with a sense of restlessness that I haven't felt in months. As I tried to discount the heaviness on my heart and to rationalize the restlessness as excitement for being on a few days of vacation, I realized I had to share the realities and perception of workplace bullying, especially in a law enforcement environment.

To the best of my knowledge, this topic has not been broached by any police department, and certainly not by the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. Realizing that it might not resonate well for some, I'll risk stirring the pot because this is a serious issue. But it would be a risk well worth the effort if it positively impacts the manner in which people are treated. Some might ask, "Why shine the light on the problem?" Because we must speak for those who can't speak for themselves!

Let me be clear, the issue within the KCPD is not systemic or wide-spread. Many of the bullies are no longer associated with the police department. The Kansas City Police Department is composed of courteous, dedicated and servant-minded individuals who have proven their commitment to our city.

At least on a weekly basis, I stress to my executive-level command staff the importance of ensuring all members of the department be respectful, courteous and fair, and that they immediately intervene if anyone is behaving unprofessionally. They've been asked to share my request and concerns with those they lead. They've been told if they see something, say something, and that no one should suffer in silence. Recently, executive level staff was provided a copy of "The Bully at Work," by Gary Namie, PhD, & Ruth Namie, PhD. This is one of many steps we'll take toward better identifying, addressing and eventually alleviating such an emotionally damaging practice.

In May of this year, the department's lead attorney from the Office of General Counsel began gathering information regarding internal suits, claims and EEOC charges of discrimination. The information will be reviewed to determine if policy and/or patterns of practices need to be revised.

As I reflect on my 28-year career with this great organization, I can't help but reflect on the many real incidents of bullying. Oftentimes, the bullies were in higher ranks or positions than those who were being bullied. I've witnessed and have been the victim of bullying at KCPD. I reported the bullying, and in most cases it was discounted as: "He does that to everyone," "You need thicker skin," or "Don't make any noise about that." As I progressed through the ranks of the department, I found better ways to confront bullies.

Throughout the years, many others have communicated their experiences, often hearing identical trite expressions from those who had the authority to intervene but didn’t. There have been incidents in which individuals were cursed out and even threatened, but no actions were taken against the bully. Transfers requests have been lost and denied without explanation. I've witnessed above-average yearly evaluations change to an employee who suddenly can't do anything right in the eyes of his immediate supervisor/commander. Most alarming, oftentimes no one intervened on behalf of the one being bullied. In some cases the bullies garnered the support of others, resulting in group bullying. The result in several cases was civil action being filed with monetary compensation being awarded to the bullied employee.

Although bullying can occur anywhere at any time, it's imperative to address bullying at its onset in a work environment. We must set the tone of non-tolerance, and most importantly, prevent the long-term emotional toll on those who are being bullied.

I encourage anyone who's being bullied to report the bullying to any supervisor or commander so the allegations can be properly investigated.

While not as prevalent as in my early years on the department, bullying still rears its destructive head far too often. I'll continue to promote employees who don't subscribe to the philosophy of going along to get along, but those who are willing to intervene to cease destructive practices, regardless of the personal consequences. I decided to express my feelings about this topic so others, within the department as well as those outside the department, might not stand by silently while others are tormented by unbridled bullies. I and many others have intervened to stop bullying over the years, and rest assured we'll continue to do so. My desire is that we create, nurture and maintain a bully-free environment and a culture that's comfortable sharing about any form of mistreatment.

I respectfully share this topic because it's important that all employees, as well as other segments of the community, understand what's being done to alleviate bullying within the KCPD.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Crime Stoppers benefits us all

What if there were a way to tell police what you knew about a crime without fear of retribution or retaliation, AND you could get a cash reward for that information? There is, and it’s been solving crimes in the Kansas City metro area since 1982.

Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers provides a valuable resource to our department and many others: a way for tipsters to tell police what they know while remaining anonymous. Since their inception 33 years ago, KC Crime Stoppers has helped police arrest suspects in 614 murders and 1,628 robberies, among other crimes, and it’s cleared 24,349 cases. They’ve also paid out more than $1.3 million in reward money. Through February of this year alone, Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers has cleared 50 cases, including violent crimes like aggravated assaults and robberies.

When most people think of getting information to Crime Stoppers, they think of the TIPS Hotline: 816-474-TIPS (8477). And that is an excellent way to do it. But there are many other ways to reach them and still remain anonymous. You can submit a tip electronically at Or you can text TIP452 and your information to CRIMES (274637).

Crime Stoppers also partnered with many Northland schools last fall in their Text-A-Tip program, in which middle and high school students can report anything from bullying to someone with a gun in the school. So far it has led to guns and narcotics being recovered and prevented suicides. Crime Stoppers is looking to expand the program into other schools around the metro area and have met with several other school districts.

In case you were unaware, Crime Stoppers is just one program under the umbrellas of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission. The Commission operates everything from a community service program for offenders sentenced to community service (which cleans up nearly 500,000 pounds of illegally dumped material in our city every year) to Second Chance, a program that helps offenders re-enter their communities after time in incarceration. You can learn more about the Crime Commission at

We are so fortunate to have such well-operated programs that solve and prevent crimes in Kansas City. Last year, KCPD Detective Kevin Boehm won Crime Stoppers Coordinator of the Year from the National Crime Stoppers organization. Our program is truly one of the best in the country. It gets cash to the people who give us information, it protects their anonymity, it solves crimes, and it brings justice to those who committed crimes. You can’t ask for much more. 

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Traffic fatalities are down significantly in Kansas City

Much has been said about the reduced homicide numbers in 2014, but there’s another markedly lower, historically significant statistic in Kansas City that represents more lives saved: traffic fatalities.

There were 48 in 2014, which is the first time that number has been that low since 1994, which also had 48 traffic deaths. We could only find statistics dating back to 1990, and there was not a lower number during that time. Some of our veteran officers believe this could be the lowest number of fatalities in 50 years. Kansas City usually averages 62 to 63 traffic deaths per year. As with homicides, 48 traffic deaths are still too many, representing 48 families who are grieving. One particularly tragic incident happened at the end of 2014 when two young women and three small children in a car all were killed in a crash with a semi-truck on Interstate 435. Our thoughts and prayers are with those they left behind.

But we are making progress. Thirteen fewer families had to grieve the loss of their loved ones to traffic crashes in Kansas City in 2014 than in 2013. In fact, this marks the second year in a row traffic deaths have fallen substantially. There were 72 in 2012, then 61 in 2013, and 48 in 2014. That’s a 33 percent reduction over a two-year period.

There are many different causes for this reduction, but I think some of it can be attributed to the work of our officers. We wanted to try something different to make an impact, so we added a fifth Traffic Enforcement squad in 2014. Enforcement activity was, therefore, much higher. Patrol Division officers not assigned to Traffic Enforcement also stepped up their issuance of traffic citations. Overall, enforcement activity was up about 20 percent, and fatalities were reduced in equal measure. If there had not been tangible, life-saving results, we would have deployed that additional squad of Traffic Enforcement officers elsewhere. I will continue to watch the correlation between enforcement and reduced fatalities for any indications that we should use our resources in another way, but right now they’re doing exactly what we’d hoped they’d do: save lives.

So how does increased enforcement activity lead to reduced fatalities? Consider the statistics from 2014. Of the 48 people killed, excessive speed was a contributing factor in 24 of their deaths. Alcohol was a factor in 19 fatalities, and drugs in 10 fatalities. Other contributing factors to fatal crashes last year included eight sign/signal violations, three people who failed to yield and two lane violations. These all are things we write citations for. The more people we stop who are travelling at excessive speeds, driving recklessly or are intoxicated, then the fewer dangerous drivers are on the road. We hope that citation modifies the driver’s behavior, encouraging them to obey traffic laws in the future.

Seat belts are another major piece of this, as they always are. Last year, Kansas City passed a primary seat belt law, which allowed officers to stop and cite drivers and passengers not wearing their seat belts. Previously, officers could not stop a vehicle just for a seat belt violation. They could issue that ticket in addition to another citation, but lack of a seat belt could not be the cause of the stop. It can now. Major Jim Pruetting, commander of the Traffic Division, told me his officers issued a lot of seat belt tickets (more than 3,200 more than in 2013), and anecdotally, they’re seeing far more people wearing them.

Of the 48 people killed in crashes in 2014, seven were pedestrians, four were motorcyclists and one was a bicyclist. That leaves 36 who were killed in cars. Twenty-three of them, or 64 percent, were not wearing their seat belts.

Kansas City stands out for its reduction in traffic fatalities. The State of Missouri recorded just three fewer traffic deaths in 2014 compared to 2013, and that drop is thanks to Kansas City. Many other places experienced increased fatality crashes.

But like homicides, there is only so much police can do to affect them. It is incumbent on everyone who operates a motor vehicle in Kansas City to drive safely and obey all traffic laws. This truly is a life-saver.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Trend of violence against children is very disturbing

We have had a very disturbing trend of violence against children in the Kansas City metro area lately. These children are among the most vulnerable of our community, and it is everyone's duty to do keep them from harm and to bring about justice for those who have harmed children. Staying silent when a child has been injured or killed is inexcusable cowardice. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has noted this tragic string of violent acts against children in the metro area. She issued a press release this weekend that I wanted to share with you. Several of these cases, like the murder of 14-year-old Alexis Kane and 3-year-old Damiah White and her mother, remain unsolved. Please do the right thing and call the TIPS Hotline if you have any information at 816-474-TIPS (8477).

Disturbing trend of child abuse and death

We have recently seen in our Metro area an alarming and disturbing trend of our children falling prey to horrendous acts of violence, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a prepared statement released today.

These children are an integral part of our community and they are defenseless, innocent and easily injured, Baker continued. Our children have been shot, beaten, burned and abused. Our metro area should not be a dangerous or perilous place for children to reside.

It is our community’s duty to protect them, to look after them. We must secure our weapons, never strike them when angry, get immediate medical care when they are injured, and report, report, report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. When kids are abused, neglected, in danger, shot, beaten, burned or abused, we should not walk to the police station to help; we should run for help.
Failing to protect these children is society’s greatest failing. We must do better.

What follows is just a partial list of the many recent cases in which child have become victims of violence or neglect:

- Friday, January 16: a 2-year old child is shot inside his south KC home

- Sunday, January 11: 7-year old seriously injured after being struck by gunfire on I-70

- Sunday, January 11: 14-year-old Alexis Kane, was found dead outside a South KC Water Park.

- Friday, January 9: 2-year-old Lorenzo Estrada was beaten and died of his injuries on January 10.

- Thursday, January 8: 7-month-old, J.S., was discovered with burns from injuries occurring earlier in December.

- Wednesday, January 7: 3-year-old T.D. shot inside her KCMO home at 38th and Chestnut.

- Sunday, January 4: 7-month-old Jaquail Mansaw killed inside a KCK home.

- Friday, December 26: 4-year-old boy was struck by gunfire as his home on Hardesty was fired upon.

- Friday, December 12: 2-year-old K.G.K., from Independence, sustained burns.

- Sunday, October 26: 10-year-old Machole Stewart killed inside a KCK home.

- Friday, October 17: 6-year-old Angel Hooper killed outside a South KC gas station.

In addition, we remember 10-year-old Kavyea Curry who was paralyzed from a shooting that also killed his father on Friday, April 19, 2014. A 5-year-old was also in the car. And we remember Damiah White, just 3, who was found murdered in her home during on Friday, August 23, 2013. Her and her mother’s murder remains unsolved. We await your call. There is no statute of limitations on murder.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

KC 2014 homicides lowest since 1972

In 2014, Kansas City, Mo., experienced the lowest number of homicides it has since 1972. There have been 77 recorded homicides in 2014. Keep in mind, this number still could fluctuate. Investigators are waiting on a toxicology report for one person. If someone dies next year from an act of violence that took place this year, it will be added to 2014’s total. (This has happened before, up to 10 years later – someone is injured by a traumatic beating or shooting, and they must receive long-term care. They later pass away from injuries ultimately resulting from their assault.)

The chart below shows the verifiable UCR (Uniform Crime Report numbers submitted annually to the FBI) data we have on Kansas City homicides dating back to 1969. None of these numbers include officer-involved shootings. They are apples-to-apples comparisons. 

While we are pleased with the reductions in these numbers, we know there are still 77 families grieving. We will not give up working for justice for them. Nor will we rest in our efforts to prevent more violent crime from taking place. 

We have done many things to reduce violent crime, but many others have been part of making our city safer. Below are some of our initiatives: 

Our Victim Assistance Unit has gone a long way to ensure violent crime victims and their family members get the support they need and let the justice process take its course, reducing acts of retaliation. The detectives assigned to the unit have offered the victims crisis intervention, criminal justice information and referrals to community services for needs directly resulting from the crime such as shelter, food, clothing, grief and trauma counseling. By far, the most requested service from these victims has been trauma counseling. 

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) deserves credit for reducing violent crime while beefing up community support for police. KC NoVA is a partnership begun in 2013 between our department, prosecutors, city government, social services and academia. This program has mapped out the relationships of everyone involved in a violent crime in our city over the last four years. It targets the most violent offenders – those at the epicenters of these criminal networks – for aggressive prosecution. For those less-violent offenders on the periphery of the mapped-out criminal networks, KC NoVA offers them a way out of a criminal lifestyle through support and social services. These offenders have been identified as being 100 times more likely to be a murder victim than the average Kansas City resident. KC NoVA’s Social Services component has assessed hundreds of clients. In partnership with numerous community resources, KC NoVA has provided them with substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, housing services, anger management courses and mental health treatment. Many clients cannot read or write and have received literacy and education assistance. 

The lack of literacy among those in criminal networks highlights the importance of early intervention, and it’s why I consider our Police Athletic League (PAL) an important crime-fighting tool. PAL offers youth the opportunity to interact with police officers in a positive setting while participating in cultural, mentoring and sports programs, with the main emphasis placed on academics. PAL is a non-profit organization staffed by Kansas City Police officers. The officers often get very involved in the lives of the children. They have done everything from driving them to a doctor’s appointment to helping their families get a new furnace when they could not afford one. The impact PAL has had on the lives of our urban-core children, many of whom live in poverty, cannot be overstated. Some of these children have gone on to college with academic and athletic scholarships, attaining careers they never would have thought possible. They also are a new generation of urban-core residents who trust police, and who have brought their family and friends to do so, as well. 

At the beginning of 2014, we also nearly doubled the amount of police 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. That’s more than 14,000 hours of additional police service for the residents of our city who are most affected by violent crime, and all of that came from existing resources. 

The fact remains that we cannot do what we do without the community. They are our eyes and ears. The more trust between police and residents, the safer our city is, period. We have amazing support from faith, business and neighborhood leaders. Our officers know that the vast majority of our residents are law-abiding folks who want the violence to stop as much as we do. We have forged some extremely beneficial partnerships with these residents, and they are making their communities safer.

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