Decisions will have to be made, KCPD chief warns about staffing shortages

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Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) vehicle

FILE: Kansas City Police Department vehicle, Kansas City, Mo.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The size of the Kansas City police department continues to shrink, even with the department actively working to recruit new employees.

As of the end of August, the department has 1,730 employees. More than 500 of those employees are staff and support positions instead of sworn officers. Deputy Chief Michael Hicks told the police board that the department is losing an average of 17 employees every month.

“By the end of 2021, KCPD will be below law enforcement staffing numbers of 1997, when KCPD had 1,185 law enforcement officers. KCPD is quickly approaching law enforcement numbers of the 1990s setting us back 25 years,” Hicks said.

If things continue this way the department said it will employee under 1,000 police officers by October 2022. It’s not just the department that is being impacted. Community interaction programs such as D.A.R.E. and PAL are also seeing a shortage of officers to help.

“I have to tell you all that there’s going to have to be decisions made at some point of some of these units and when we keep them open or we close them,” Chief Rick Smith, Kansas City Police Department, said.

Chief Smith said at some point the department and the police board will be forced to pick between popular programs offered through the department and actually responding to crimes.

“As we try and respond to the citizens need for 911 calls which we feel, and everyone should feel, is a top priority of this organization is to be there for people in need, when they call 911. So, we struggled. We will continue to struggle,” Smith said.

Chief Smith said the department’s property crimes division currently has 35 officers, 33% less than the 56 detectives it’s supposed to have.

“The staffing issue is a very serious and real issue in the police department, and it is going to hopefully not affect the service we provide to citizens, but everything else is going to be affected,” Smith said.

There is a current recruiting class at the police academy. It started June 14 and the recruits will graduate in December. Another class began earlier this month and will graduate in March. The department said the problem is that even if everyone graduates the classes are smaller than the number of officers the department is losing every month.

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