Kansas City police chief warns of longer response times, backlogs unless funding approved

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith is warning of longer response times, case backlogs and cuts to outreach programs if the department doesn’t receive millions in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

In a blog post, Smith said the department is down 116 officers and remains under a hiring freeze. He said the department is losing more than eight officers a month to attrition, a number that’s increased since 2011.

Smith said the department has been able to fill open positions in the past with new recruits out of its regional police academy, but that funding has also been cut. Because of budget cuts, there hasn’t been an academy class since February of 2020.

According to Smith, it takes 10 months to train a new officer. That means even if there was money to begin an academy class now, the recruits would not hit the streets until March or April of 2022.

“If KCPD continues to lose officers at the 8.5 per month rate, we will have 1,151 by April 2022. That is equivalent to the amount of officers KCPD had in 1993, at which time Kansas City, Mo., had a population of about 435,000. Our city now approaches 500,000 in population,” Smith wrote.

He pointed out that if something doesn’t change, programs such as the Police Athletic League, opportunities offered through the Youth Programs Section, and D.A.R.E> and G.R.E.A.T. curriculum will be cut.

The department said before the pandemic, these officers reached 4,000 children in 30 schools.

“The relationships our Youth Services Unit builds through these interactions are priceless. They build bridges in the community and help kids make smart choices,” Chief Smith said.

If the programs are cut, officers assigned to those units would be reassigned to answer 911 calls.

Smith said the public will also see other impact, including:

  • Increased response times
  • Response times for paramedics, EMTs and firefighters will also likely increase
  • Backlogs solving crimes because of fewer employees working in the department’s crime lab

Smith is asking for the community to ask city council members to use part of the $97.5 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act to fully fund the department’s budget and end its hiring freeze.

City council members are debating whether to allocate $9.2 million to the police department.

The police department, along with other city departments, faced a 4.5% budget cut because Kansas City’s tax collections dropped by millions of dollars. The city’s fire department did not face the same cuts because it’s partially funded by a sales tax approved by voters.

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