KC still struggling to recruit police officers while violent crime issues persist

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City continues to fight a violent crime problem, and at the same time, is struggling to find enough police officers to patrol the streets.

The job requirement sounds simple enough.

“We’re looking for good, honest, respectable people,” said KCPD Deputy Chief Karl Oakman.

But the tough task of actually being a cop isn't an easy sell. There's a shortage of police officers in departments big and small cross the country.

“It’s been difficult. So we have to make sure we’re doing things to make policing a job that would attract those people who may have not considered policing as a career,” said Oakman.

The police department in Kansas City, Mo. currently has more than 30 officer openings. On top of that, the city's proposed budget could add another 24 officers, and 15 dispatchers. So KCPD is expanding its efforts, hoping to find more good recruits.

“We just ask the community to assist us. We’re in this together and we need good people to help us with making our community the safest and best community in America,” Oakman said.

The need is greatest for women and minorities. Right now, the department's only 15 percent female, despite their being 51 percent of the city population. Similar gaps exist for blacks and Hispanics, with 30 percent of the city being African American and only 12 percent black officers, and 10 percent of residents being Hispanic, with just a five percent Hispanic police force.

“Communities are seeing it as an opportunity to make the change. We talk about well it’s not changing, it’s always the same. If we don’t do anything to make the change and get involved, to help make that change, then we can’t complain,” said Victor Lopez, workforce development director with the Guadalupe Center.

The Guadalupe Center just hosted a successful officer recruitment event.

In the coming months, KCPD’s planning to add a recruitment office at Manuel Tech Center, which will be one of the first of its kind in the nation, connecting high schoolers to career opportunities in law enforcement.

The department is also growing efforts to reach out to students at colleges across the country, by connecting current officers with their alma maters.

This summer, it'll launch youth police academies for middle schoolers.

All of this is happening, as the department has also streamlined it application process, cutting turnaround time from six months to around three months.

“We always make sure you have the most innovative and best training that’s possible in the country to make sure we put you out there on the streets to where we know you’re safe and you’ll be able to protect the citizens of Kansas City,” said Oakman.

With low unemployment, and older officers retiring, the need for officers will only keep growing.

“It’s your time. Make a difference. Be KCPD,” Oakman said.

At least two dozen other metro agencies also have police officer jobs to fill. It's not an easy process to complete. At KCPD, after all the testing hurdles, only about 10 to 15 percent of those recruited will make it to the finish line and become officers.

You can learn more about openings and apply online with KCPD here.