KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mounted patrol officers from the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department will work regular patrol shifts in a larger effort to solve homicide cases.
The Board of Police Commissioners made the decision to put the mounted patrol on hold at Tuesday's meeting.
Through a partnership, a group from the United States Attorney's Office of the Central District of California studied violent crime in Kansas City and made suggestions to KCPD regarding how to improve its homicide case clearance rate.
The U.S. Attorney's Office recommended that the department add eight detectives to the force because of the workload.
KCPD also faces a shortage of patrol officers, needing 42 more, but Chief Rick Smith said it is not feasible to shift officers from patrol into investigative divisions.
Instead, the solution is to reassign mounted patrol officers back to the field for the time being, allowing any current patrol officers who are qualified to become detectives to make the move to the Homicide Unit.
The board said this shift is not "anti-mounted patrol," but "anti-homicide."
The move will "ensure that our violent crimes unit and investigators are staffed to the capacity they need to be staffed at," Chief Rick Smith told the board.
So far this year, there have been 130 homicides in KCMO — 11 more than this time last year, according to KCPD. In addition to that, there were 27 drive-by shootings within city limits in October, with 51 victims.
"It is the right decision for the operations of this police department and for the citizens of this city," Smith said.
The sergeant who oversees the mounted patrol told 41 Action News its nine horses will be housed at KCPD's current facility, which is owned by Kansas City Parks and Recreation, until a final decision is made regarding the patrol's long-term future.
Most of the horses were donated and will be offered back to the original owners, KCPD said.
Earlier in 2019, 41 Action News reported KCPD was weighing a decision to disband the mounted patrol.
Dozens of mounted patrol supporters showed up at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting in April, when nearly 20 spoke in favor of keeping the division.
KCPD said it plans to "explore options for a possible multi-jurisdictional Mounted Patrol concept."
"Once it's gone, it would be impossible to bring it back to the superb organization it is now," said AliceLee Hollister, chair of "The Friends of the KC Mounted Patrol."
The organization raised at least $450,000 to support the unit in its 13 years of existence.
"Horses — they draw people in. And that's why we say the mounted is proactive. They go into neighborhoods," Hollister said.
She said she's hopeful other law enforcement agencies in the metro will step up to help keep the unit's mission going.
"The hurtful thing is the officers," Hollister said. "It's what's being done to the officers after they've devoted and have done a superb job," Hollister said.
The commissioners initially said the transfers would happen as soon as possible. The mounted patrol's sergeant said the officers will likely transfer before the first of the year.