After funding lawsuit, Kansas City and police board agree on need for more officers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Collaboration between the Kansas City Police Department and city hall is gaining momentum, a somewhat unexpected consequence of a budget lawsuit now compelling cooperation.

The growing teamwork was on full display during Tuesday’s Board of Police Commissioner’s meeting. Kansas City Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson opened the meeting with thoughts on potential changes for KCPD.

A reason this is worth highlighting is that KCPD is a state agency funded by Kansas City, but controlled by the Board of Police Commissioners selected by the Missouri governor. The mayor of Kansas City does have a seat on the board, but this sort of visit from a councilperson on these topics is not that common.

Robinson pushed back on the idea that her constituents want less police. They actually want increased protective policing experiences, she said, a goal lost while playing the blame game.

“We’re in a dysfunctional relationship. But the hope, there is hope, and there is opportunities for us to grow together and to grow collaboratively,” Robinson said of the relationship between the city council and KCPD.

Proposals put forward by Robinson include joint meetings between the Board of Police Commissioners and City Council members four times a year, small committee meetings to be productive and prepared for those joint meetings, and filling out KCPD positions using new promotion policies.

“We cannot continue to leave our rank-and-file bare. I know that you all are working on staffing issues. We recognize at the city level that we do have inadequate staffing and it’s wreaking havoc on the department. I would ask that you please explore seriously tapering or suspending leadership promotions until the rank-and-file positions are filled,” Robinson said.

“We recognize that our officers are exposed to trauma, day-in and day-out without the ability to emotionally process coupled with not having enough officers to cover calls, that’s a recipe for disaster,” Robinson said.

“I appreciate your thoughts and your idea of having joint meetings. It’s kind of scary but I think it probably would be a good idea. Thank you,” Commissioner Cathy Dean said in response to Robinson’s words.

KCPD also reported that they continue to lose officers to retirement and that new recruits coming in through the academy are not adding officers but instead are, at best, keeping employment levels stable or at a less severe net-loss.

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