KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Police are making changes to the wagons they use to transport suspects. Police gave Officer Richard Jones a Meritorious Service Award Tuesday night for his efforts to improve safety.
“They are just trying to be combative, they are being belligerent, they kind of want to one up you, so you put them in the seat belt like we do,and they say I’m going to show you I’m going to be moving around the passenger compartment,” Officer Jones said of many of the people he transports.
But an unsecured passenger can be a danger to officers and themselves.
Last year, Jones says multiple passengers harmed themselves in Kansas City Police transport wagons, about the same time Freddie Gray ended up dying in the back of a Baltimore Police wagon.
“When you are in a similar situation like the officers in that incident were in, it does weigh on you, it does get you thinking,” Jones said.
At the request of a superior, Jones started trying to come up with ways to make the ride to jail safer for everyone. The first idea, already put in place in all KCPD wagons, was locking seat belt buckles.
“It goes over the current buckle, and it’s held in place with zip ties, it requires a key to unlock,” Jones demonstrated.
He also came up with a mounted tool for first responders to cut passengers free from their seat belts, if for some reason the driver and key-holder couldn’t. Thankfully no one was in the back in a 2012 crash on Paseo Blvd. where a Kansas City police transport wagon ended up on its top.
Cameras show officers what’s going on in the back of the wagons on a tiny monitor right now. Soon those images will be right on their computer screens next to them.
“I’ll tell you looking back, I think I sleep a little better at night now,” Jones said.
Other changes still being implemented include seat belt alarms and restraint systems that keep officers at arms length from suspects.
“It shows they are listening to us, it shows hey we are bringing ideas to you and somebody saying hey that’s a good idea let’s try it, I think that means more than the award itself,” Jones said.