KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department is turning a new page in leadership. This month the department swore in its highest ranking Hispanic police officer, Luis Ortiz, as deputy chief.
Ortiz is only the second hispanic officer to the hold the title has been with the department for more than 20 years.
“The leaders of this department have been amazing at recognizing Kansas City is growing,” Ortiz said. “I am happy that the leadership recognizes that and that now I am part of that leadership.”
Born in El Salvador and raised in the midst of the country’s Civil War, Ortiz says his experience made him realize his passion for law enforcement and a desire to uphold the badge to its highest honor.
"I saw many atrocities to innocent people and it was the government and the left doing that and at seven years old, I realized that was not the role that the government should be or how you're supposed to protect the people that you say that you fighting for,” he said.
Ortiz’s new title comes at the conclusion of one of the city’s deadliest years on record.
2022 marked the second highest homicide rate the city has ever seen. Ortiz says the department and its leaders are looking at patterns and taking part in monthly meetings to reduce crime trends within Kansas City.
“We do have some work to do but we are working on it. Every week we have meetings with stakeholders, members of Partners for Peace and Kansas City 360, these are efforts that we're having so that we can include and listen to the community,” Ortiz said.
An area Ortiz currently oversees under his new role is recruitment.
Right now, KCPD has 1,131 sworn officers, including 27 in the academy. Out of those sworn officers, 113 are Black male officers, 31 Black female officers, 62 Hispanic male officers and 7 Hispanic female officers.
When the department is fully staffed it has just over 1,400 officers.
Just last year, KCPD held its first ever Citizens Academy for the Hispanic Community in an effort to establish relationships between the Hispanic population and police. Ortiz believes events like the Citizens Academy help his department bridge a gap between officers and the people they serve.
“I believe that Hispanics are now getting to see that with the events and interactions that we have with them positive interactions,” Ortiz said.
Last fall, KCPD was notified the department was under a federal investigation regarding discrimination patterns against Black officers and treatment of minority officers.
Ortiz couldn’t comment on pending litigation, but said the department is focused on providing an inclusive environment for current and future officers.
"We are working with everyone," Ortiz said. "It is my responsibility to ensure we are well represented, but at the same time, we want the most qualified people in those positions."