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Chief Smith paints bleak picture of KCPD budget cuts

KCPD Chief Rick Smith
Posted at 7:30 AM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 09:14:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An 11 percent budget cut for the 2021-22 fiscal year could be devastating to the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, according to Chief Richard Smith.

The chief laid out some staggering numbers in a blog post on Wednesday about potential budget cuts to make up for COVID-19 losses in the city.

The department already cut $5.6 million from the current year's budget, according to Smith. That resulted in 90 positions lost and the cancellation of academy classes.

Now, the city is asking the department to outline what an 11 percent cut would look like for the next year, and Smith said that's another $26 million.

"Quite frankly, it would be devastating," Smith said in the blog post.

So what does $26 million look like for KCPD?

According to Smith, the biggest item would be a 400 person reduction of KCPD staff and two-week furloughs for everyone else.

"The last time we took a major budget hit was in the recession of 2008. It took us 10 years to come close to regaining the staffing we had then. It takes about a year and a half to recruit, process, hire and train a new police officer on our department. We had more than 1,400 officer positions prior to 2008. We’re now at a little more than 1,300," he said in his blog. "These reductions would put us at less than 1,000 officers. The last time that occurred was in 1970. After the passage of the 1% Earnings Tax in 1971, we hired 200 more officers. Does Kansas City really want to go backward 50 years?"

The chiefs also laid out other options for meeting the 11 percent threshold.

One scenario would close both the North Patrol Division and the Central Patrol Division and consolidate them with other stations.

Smith said that is one-third of the stations in the city and the two stations combined serve about 129,900 people.

Another option would be to eliminate the KCPD Helicopter Unit, one Traffic Enforcement Squad, Community Interaction Officers, School Resource Officers, Police Athletic League, CAN Centers, social workers and Impact Squad officers, according to Smith. Those staff members would all be reassigned to patrol divisions.

Other scenarios include reducing property crime detectives, implementing a hiring freeze (which would eliminate about 120 officers being hired through the academy), cutting 13 people from the Kansas City Regional Crime Lab or eliminating support staff positions.

According to Smith, the cuts the department would have to make would slow response times, slow 911 call center operations, make fewer detectives available to investigate crimes, put the priority on violent crimes over all other crimes and backlog the crime lab.

"The people who need police service the most are our most economically disadvantaged. They’re who call 911 the most and have the least resources. They are who our social workers assist. They are who will be hurt most by cuts to the police department," he went on to say in his blog.

Smith also said community policing and youth outreach would take major hits with budget cuts.

"These cuts are not a foregone conclusion. City leaders have a choice to make between now and when the new fiscal year starts May 1, 2021, and they will base much of that on what they hear from residents. We look forward to residents participating in these discussions," he finished off.

During an interview with 41 Action News on Tuesday, Mayor Quinton Lucas said he would not want 400 positions to be lost at KCPD.

“I do not support cutting officers. I do not support closing a station, and I think that there are better ways that we can make sure that we continue to deliver necessary services in Kansas City,” Lucas said.

He also shared a post on Facebook citing areas of budget overlap where cuts might be able to be made to avoid drastic effects on the department.

Had the monthly Board of Police Commissioners meeting today. Among the presenters were Councilwoman Katheryn Shields...

Posted by Mayor Quinton Lucas on Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Chief Smith's budget concerns come as Mayor Lucas laid out a new plan to tackle crime in Kansas City, which puts emphasis on things like enforcement and community interaction - things Smith said would be gravely affected by budget cuts.

Kansas City is on track to see one of the most violent years on record.

There have been 145 homicides in Kansas City, Missouri, so far this year, compared to 119 at this same time last year.