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Kansas City-area police departments evaluating security improvements following mass shootings

overland park incident action plan
Posted at 5:26 PM, Jul 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 20:03:28-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — After the mass shooting that killed seven people in an Illinois suburb, KSHB 41 News spoke with police departments in the Kansas City area about their safety plans for larger gatherings.

John Lacy, the public information officer for the Overland Park Police Department, couldn't get into detail about what's in an Incident Action Plan.

However, Lacy says for every 5K or fireworks display, they always have one ready days in advance.

"They always change. We may see an incident like Highland Park and we're going to look at that incident, find out what did they do good, what did they do bad, how can we improve safety here in Overland Park for our citizens," Lacy said.

Like Highland Park, Illinois, where a shooter hiding on a rooftop shot into a 4th of July parade, Overland Park is a suburb.

Overland Park police were on high alert Monday at the annual Corporate Woods fireworks display and had extra resources.

"There were officers that stepped up and said, 'Hey, if you need me out there, I'm willing to come out there,'" Lacy said. "We also had officers in plainclothes that were mingling with the crowd."

They had public works trucks blocking pedestrian areas to avoid someone driving through a crowd, taking notes from the 2016 incident in Nice, France, where a man plowed through a group of people at a Bastille Day celebration.

OPPD was certainly aware of the need to have resources in high places like rooftops.

"We have eyes everywhere," Lacy said.

Lacy also stresses situational awareness. He said the police depend on every day people to keep their eyes open.

If you see a post on social media and it doesn't sit right with you, tell someone about it, Lacy said.

If you're at an event and you see something or someone and you get a bad gut feeling, don't hesitate to tell a police officer.

Highland Park is actually more similar in size to Leawood, Kansas.

Highland Park's population is about 30,000 and its police force is made up of 57 officers and 12 civilian employees.

Leawood's population is 34,000 and its police force has 61 officers and 22 support personnel.

"I think what you're going to see is more use of unmanned aerial systems such as drones," John Hamilton, a retired Kansas City police officer, said.

Hamilton is also a criminal justice associate professor emeritus at Park University. He says drones can be useful for smaller departments without a lot of resources, such as a helicopter.

"Where you can get a drone that's well-equipped, that has a camera above it, that's fairly quiet, that you could use to do continual surveillance as well," Hamilton said.

When a mass shooting happens, Hamilton says his mind always goes to what information was there before that could have prevented it.

It's unclear what kind of surveillance Highland Park and its police department had at the parade, like snipers on rooftops, drones or helicopters.

"So when I look at what was yesterday I look and say, I don't know how you would have prevented it short of maybe having intelligence information prior to the event," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said 20 to 25 years ago, police weren't worried about high-powered weapons, like the Highland Park suspect had.

"I think what's changed is some of the tactics that the shooters have begun to use and plans have begun to evolve to meet those needs," Hamilton said.

This after-action doesn't prevent the loss of life but he says pinpointing what they can do better next time is critical.

The Kansas City Police Department also responded to KSHB 41 News' request, saying they've had the opportunity to plan for several large events during the last 10 years with a World Series win, a Super Bowl win, and many parades.

KCPD has a Critical Incident Management plan in place that covers large-scale disasters and other incidents.

"Our members train regularly in active shooter response," Officer Donna Drake, a spokesperson for KCPD, said. "We work with the FBI, the Fusion Center, as well as regional and local partners to gather and disseminate information regarding potential threats."

Drake said they also work with schools, hospitals, and other private businesses to provide them with active shooter training.

Interim Chief Mabin spoke about active shooter situations at the June 28th Board of Police Commissioners meeting, following the Uvalde school shooting.

Mabin said training for all officers is ongoing.