KCMO gun violence up, KCPD ranks down

New officers coming to department

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An increase in gun violence and homicides in Kansas City has also come at the same time the number of Kansas City Police Department officers has steadily dropped.

"If we knew how to prevent this senseless carnage and save lives, don't you think we already would've done it?" asked Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

According to KCPD figures, during James's tenure as mayor and a member of the Police Board, homicides have gone up while the number of KCPD officers has steadily decreased.

The 41 Action News Investigators first looked at the numbers in March 2017.

In the decade from 2007 through 2016, KCPD averaged 1,394 officers on the force.

The highest number, 1,427 officers, came in 2013 while James was mayor.

The lowest number also came in James's tenure -- 1,279 officers last year.

Last year saw 151 homicides compared to 82 homicides in 2014.

Addressing the rise in violent crime, James said, "There's no pattern to what's going on, there's no discernible trend to what's going on."

While neither the mayor nor Chief Rick Smith specifically addressed the size of KCPD at a lengthy news conference Monday, 41 Action News' Dia Wall did ask Smith about the impact gun violence is having on the department's homicide unit.

"They're not getting much home time. We've had to call people up, change rotations, we're out of people," Smith said.

Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon declined to comment on this story, but he has repeatedly called for the hiring of more police officers over the last couple of years.

In a statement, Police Board Chairman Nathan Garrett said in part, "Certainly more officers are always a welcomed addition, and the city worked favorably with us this year to add to the force during this budget cycle. We look forward to realizing that increase."

But Garrett also added, "As for an obvious or at-the-ready solution to our recent rash of violence, it doesn’t exist. Our problem is out of the reach of topical or quick solutions." 

James also emphasized policing isn't the only answer to solving the violence problem.

"We can't trick ourselves into thinking that if there was an officer at a certain location, this wouldn't happen," James said.

This year's homicide rate is currently lower than last year's, and the number of KCPD officers is starting to increase again. The July 2018 report has it at 1,294 officers.

KCPD spokesman Jacob Becchina said a soon-to-graduate academy class will add more officers to the department before the end of the year.

Becchina added KCPD is hoping to hire as many as 40 additional officers for an academy class starting in October.

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