KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A week after Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith said the department’s Cold Case Unit has been disbanded, the agency clarified the decision.

During Tuesday’s police board meeting, the department revealed the move is temporary.

Deputy Chief Joseph Mabin said the decision to reassign detectives from the Missing Persons/Cold Case unit was made simply to address staffing issues.

“Starting May 1, detective positions in the Missing Persons/Cold Case Squad will be reassigned to work overnight shifts,” Mabin said.

Mabin told the police board, including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, that the department needed more detectives available to respond to overnight crimes. He said that is when the biggest number of homicides, assaults, and other violent crimes happen.

“Currently we are having detectives from the robbery unit, domestic violence unit, the assault unit, sex crimes unit, working overnight for seven days in a row on a rotating basis to help out staffing with that shift. This is taking these detectives away from their assigned cases and increasing the case load on other detectives,” Mabin said.

The department laid out its plan to address the staffing issue in the short term and also reestablish the Missing Persons/Cold Case Unit in the future during Tuesday’s meeting.

“All these duties aren’t falling by the wayside. They’re just being distributed to other cases, and that’s been done in the past,” Mabin said.

Homicide detectives will investigate cold cases for the time being. The department’s sex crimes unit will look into any cold cases that also involve sex crimes. Missing persons cases will be handled by the domestic violence unit and missing children will be investigated by the department’s juvenile unit.

The department said it plans to shift detectives back to the cold case unit as soon as it gets enough new recruits back on the streets. Mabin said he expects that to happen this fall.

“We just need more officers available in the field, and then that way we can backfill to investigations and those individuals to the overnight squad. So it’s a process, but we think we have a finish line in sight,” Mabin said.

Lucas commented that the change could have been handled better. He said it could have been managed if the police board would have known the department’s plan before it was made public.

“Language of disbanding or something of that sort makes a layperson think that area of important policing activity is not being filled, and I would like us perhaps in future meetings to understand at least what the plan is,” Lucas said.

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