Downtown KC parking audit says police fall short in enforcement, staffing

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Imagine you’re in downtown Kansas City, and you decide to leave your car parked without plugging the meter.

You come back, and there’s a ticket. You might feel like it’s just not your day.

Well, your sense of bad luck might have been confirmed by a recent audit showing that the Kansas City Police Department has been dramatically understaffing positions responsible for giving parking citations.

According to documents filed by the City Auditor’s Office, parking control officers, which are managed by KCPD, do not follow defined enforcement routes, are understaffed and fall short of citation goals.

That last part some people might appreciate. But the result is that vehicles can park illegally without consequence.

Since April 2018, downtown parking has been the purview of police because of a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the city.

But according to the audit, KCPD hasn’t fulfilled their responsibilities.

“Between 2018 and 2021, the department did not achieve the minimum 10 parking control officers (PCOs). As of January 2021, only two PCOs are assigned in the downtown area,” according to the audit.

The city is interested in the issue because downtown redevelopment means more demand for short-term parking. They want drivers to be held accountable. But they are also looking at this from a funding perspective.

“Police department budgets from 2019-2022 show almost $1.7 million appropriated for downtown PCOs … the department did not expend these funds in accordance with the MOU, and the city is not receiving the services it funded,” according to the audit.

KCPD offered this statement: “We are aware of this audit and the information in it. We are currently in discussions with the city and maintain a dialog through our city hall liaison captain regarding parking control operations. These discussions are ongoing at this time.”

City Manager Brian Platt wants to explore new options.

“I … strongly feel that parking enforcement can be performed by civilian employees in our department of Public Works under the direction of our Transportation Director,” Platt wrote in a letter included in the audit.

The city is also looking at the possibility of outsourcing enforcement, another option that would likely result in more parking citations written.

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