KCPD brings back community interaction officers, working to improve communication with public

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sometimes, handshakes work better than handcuffs.

The Kansas City Police Department is celebrating the return of the Community Interaction Program with that in mind, as it puts officers in the community as problem solvers.

Officer Andy Hamil has spent over 20 years in law enforcement, and when new KCPD Chief Richard Smith took office last August, he made bringing back the community interaction officers a priority.

Every morning, Hamil's email inbox overflows with situations that require his attention.

"Come to me with anything. If I can't solve it, I'll get somebody who can," Hamil said Thursday.

KCPD Officer Andy Hamil

He's one of two community interaction officers at KCPD Center Patrol. Some of his work involves helping business owners who, in some cases, contend with property disputes, or problems no one else can help with.

"What I do is to follow up on a lot of reoccuring calls to the same location and try to help whatever the reason we keep coming back to the same location over and over again," Hamil said.

"We can be there to talk with people in a more relaxed situation and not a heated moment when 911 was called," he said.

Previous KCPD Chief Daryl Forte did away with the Community Interaction Program in 2016, saying every officer should be able to aid others through interaction with the public. Forte also wanted to use more officers to patrol the streets.

However, in March, Smith brought it back and expanded it, staffing all six police precincts with two community interaction officers instead of one.

Take a peek under the bridge at 19th and Holmes near Hospital Hill, and you'll find the reason Buddy Mitchum called Hamil for help.

Two months ago, Mitchum said he realized homeless people had set up a sizable camp underneath that bridge near DC Tech, Inc. That's his metal fabrication business he's kept in that area since 1998.

He said once the homeless camped out, garbage, rats and unsanitary waste were soon to follow.

Mitchum said he found one homeless person in a comatose state under that bridge, and when he called for help, Hamil was one of the people who responded. Mitchum said Hamil worked with city sanitation workers to clean up the nasty mess that was overwhelming his next-door metal shop.

"There have to be Andy Hamils on the police force and the part of the police force that addresses this. If not, it will consume the city. Officer Hamil -- he's a blessing to the city and to me," Mitchum said.

Hamil said he's "cop friendly," and by that, he said he's characterizing what this police program is. He wants to help people before stronger policing methods have to be used.