KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Soon people traveling through Kansas City International Airport will just see airport police and no longer Kansas City, Missouri, police officers patrolling the grounds with them.
Starting Sunday, all eight members of KCPD who currently patrol the airport are getting reassigned to close a gap at the North and Shoal Creek patrol stations.
"Obviously our two divisions up north are probably the least staffed. They also cover the most mileage. It also means that when we have the officers up there, it takes them longer to respond to calls," KCPD Chief Rick Smith said while addressing the Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday.
The shuffle comes as KCPD struggles to hire officers and more retire or leave the department.
"If we cannot keep up with the recruiting, we have to do something to keep up retention," Sgt. Brad Lemon, president of the Kansas City Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 99 said.
Currently, staffing levels are under 1,200. Police said ideally, they'd be just over 1,400.
But Sgt. Lemon predicts by year's end they may be at staffing levels not seen since 1989.
"We got to quit having these conversations where the command staff and you know, then the Board of Police Commissioners in the City Council and the mayor and everybody's fighting amongst each other, while we're bleeding out rank and file," Lemon said.
He's alluding to the battle over the budget that wound up in court.
"There’s another $3 million that the city was going to give us for recruiting classes. Once the litigation was over, at least that's what we were told. Have we gotten that?" Police Commissioner Cathy Dean asked during Monday's meeting.
KCPD Deputy Chief Doug Niemeier responded they had not.
Most of the items associated with the budget got put on hold for Wednesday's special meeting where the board and KCPD top brass will do a deep dive into the numbers.
"And to make sure we get into some level of clarity, you know, removing units in the middle of the year, albeit at the airport, albeit downtown, albeit any neighborhood in Kansas City — it’s not what the people of Kansas City want," Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas said after the meeting. "We have funding for them. These budgets are supposed to mean something. And so that's where I think I have some frustration where I'd like to see more answers."
The special business session begins at 3 p.m. at KCPD headquarters.