Business Groups Urge Kansas City Police Department Reform As KCPD Concerns Lost Staff | KCUR 89.3

  Business Groups Urge Kansas City Police Department Reform As KCPD Concerns Lost Staff |  KCUR 89.3

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, presented three recommendations first made in July, saying they held 35 meetings, including 14 listening sessions with community groups, local and national law enforcement, local prosecutors and police oversight organizations.

“We believe the process can be improved,” Reardon said. “And we’ve learned in our listening sessions that there’s a lack of trust in the current process.”

The other business group recommendations call for more diversity on the Board of Police Commissioners, a majority white board appointed by Missouri’s governor, and the re-establishment of a community advisory board.

A coalition of civil rights groups has called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the KCPD and many activists have called for Smith’s removal.

Story Highlights

  • As the KCPD and City Hall remain locked in a legal battle over proposed budget reforms — and business officials as well as Black Lives Matter protesters call for major reforms — Smith continued to hammer away at how his department has been harmed by the employee attrition.

  • Both groups found “broad dissatisfaction” with the current process of investigating officer misconduct cases and complaints from the public, which goes through the Office of Community Complaints, as well as KCPD leadership. Joe Reardon, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said a reform structure should employ outside investigators who report to the Board of Police Commissioners.

The business groups also asked that the city and the board “engage in dialogue rather than litigation” to find common ground. That was a nod to the current board lawsuit against the city council and Mayor Quinton Lucas, who pushed through a plan in May that would reallocate about one-fifth of the police budget for social services and crime prevention programs.

Asked by board president Mark Tolbert if he had any comment on the recommendations, Smith said he did not.

Police spokesman Jake Becchina said in an email that the KCPD will continue to work with its many community partners, including the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. “The board uses these opportunities to receive input from the public and from community partners to influence their oversight of the department activities as well as policies and procedures,” Becchina said.

Newly appointed board commissioner Dawn Cramer said if an advisory board is created, its members should see KCPD officer training up close. “I think it would be a really good idea for them to do a ride-along and for them to do some of the little tactical things that they do when these officers lives are in fear,” she said.

Departmental staffing hits low point Smith painted a dire picture of staffing in the department, with his command staff saying it’s going back to levels not seen in 25 years. Smith has attributed the losses to retirements and others leaving the profession, a reflection of national trends.

Smith said officers will be leaving two popular programs that work with school children, and the downtown foot patrol will be decimated. Decisions must be made soon on whether some of the units, like property crimes, will continue to operate, he said. “The staffing issue is a very serious and real issue in the police department and it is going to affect — hopefully not affect — the services we provide to citizens,” he said. “But everything else is going to be affected.”

“By the end of 2021, KCPD will be below law enforcement staffing numbers of 1997, when KCPD had 1,185 law enforcement officers,” Hicks said. “KCPD is quickly approaching law enforcement numbers of the early 1990s, setting us back 25 years.” The KCPD currently has 1,207 sworn officers and 504 non-sworn officers, Deputy Chief Michael Hicks said.