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Kansas City police commissioners took no action Tuesday on a proposal from Mayor Quinton Lucas that the monthly meetings focus on how the police department will enhance community relations, reduce crimes and address gun violence.
Lucas asked board president Mark Tolbert on Monday that each month the police board be provided with updates on specific efforts to reduce violent crime and staffing issues.
“I think what everyone asks for, is how are we addressing violent crime issues,” Lucas said after Tuesday’s police board meeting. “How are we making sure that we are efficient as we possibly can be in terms of what the real public safety issues are for us.”
In a letter to Tolbert, Lucas said that he wanted the monthly agendas to focus more directly on the “the epidemic of gun violence faced by Kansas City.”
That discussion would include updates and detailed statistics on homicides and non-fatal shootings, as well as specific plans on how the police department is addressing gun violence.
“This is something that a lot of the public is wanting to address,” Lucas said. “While it is good to get details about other items, I think most Kansas Citians are concerned about homicides, most Kansas Citians are concerned about shootings, significant crime in their neighborhoods.
“And so that is the work that I think we’re going to make sure we do in more of these meetings.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, Deputy Chief Joseph Mabin, who leads the investigations bureau, said the pace of killings and nonfatal shootings has decreased from a year ago. There have been 69 homicides reported in 2021, according to data maintained by The Star. There had been 87 killings during the same period last year.
As of Sunday, there had been 221 nonfatal shooting victims reported in 2021. By comparison, there were 274 persons who survived being shot during the first six months of 2020.
Lucas also requested police officials provide board members with the number of criminal cases that are referred to county prosecutors each month.
Mabin said the police department had been tracking those numbers for several months. The police department has presented 1,374 violent cases to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. Criminal charges have been filed in just over 49% of those cases, Mabin said.
Lucas said he found it fascinating that Jackson County leads Kansas City counties in violent crime prosecutions, as compared to 47% in Clay County and 36% in Platte County. The average waiting period for criminal charges to be filed is 27 days. The average wait is 41 days in Clay County and 103 days in Platte County.
“I think that’s fairly impressive, and shows a focus, at least in the Jackson County portion on addressing our violent crime concern, which is our greatest flaw, what can we do to work with them in more situations,” he said.
Other discussion items should include a report of staffing levels in all units that would be presented alongside staffing cuts and the number of sworn officers assigned to administrative duties.
Each month, department leaders will be asked to report on victim and witness support; specifically, the percentage of shooting victims and witnesses who cooperate with investigators.
Neighborhood leaders who experience the highest rates of gun violence will be asked to provide testimony on crime trends each month, Lucas proposed.
Lucas said he was optimistic that the board would adopt his recommendations.
“Hope springs eternal. Look, politics is an interesting, challenging business, whether it’s me working with 12 other (city) council members, or working with four other board of police commissioners,” he said. “I think all of us are interested in the same thing, ultimately, which is making a safer Kansas City; we may have strongly different ways that we get there.”