Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté, in response to a special report published this week in The Star, plans to boost efforts to secure more cooperation from victims wounded in shootings.
Forté expects to detail his new efforts in a discussion before the City Council at 1 p.m. today.
His efforts focus on improving ways to reconnect with victims in the days and weeks following nonfatal shootings, in hopes of getting more victims involved in the investigation.
The Star’s analysis published on Sunday and Monday found that the majority of victims — 60 percent — wounded by gunfire in Kansas City last year did not help police pursue their shooters. Detectives then shut down the investigations, and prosecutors didn’t file charges. With detectives abandoning so many cases, prosecutors filed charges in just 10 percent of last year’s nonfatal shootings.
When shooters figure out they can get away with shooting people, authorities lose any deterrent effect, national experts told The Star.
Among the cases abandoned by Kansas City police last year were 67 shootings in which detectives, who were following up on original reports, could not contact victims. Forté’s proposed changes, which he shared with The Star Wednesday, address that scenario.
As it stands, detectives call and visit the homes of shooting victims. When they don’t find the victim, they send a letter that asks the victim to contact a detective within 10 days.
The three-sentence letter tells victims their case will be handled by the Assault Squad and asks if they “desire to assist in the prosecution of the suspect(s) involved in this incident.” It then asks victims to call the squad’s office, “even if you do not wish to pursue this matter.”
If victims don’t contact detectives, the case is shut down, police said.
Forté plans to revise the letter to add more empathy, and he will require detectives to send three such letters to victims before abandoning an investigation.
Forté said he also wants officers to collect more information from victims for the initial police report so detectives will have better success in finding victims. Specifically, he wants officers to ask for email addresses, whether victims can receive text messages and contact information for a relative.
In addition, Forté wants officers who are currently saturating several violent “hotspots” in the city to help locate hard-to-find victims of serious shootings. The officers are already working in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods to build relationships and fight crime, Forté said. They could find victims detectives are looking for who live in their districts, answer questions or concerns and encourage victims to contact detectives, he said.
Forté is searching for more ideas, he said. He plans to send a department-wide email to employees today that will include a link to The Star’s stories and a request for ways the department could encourage more victim cooperation.
“I appreciate having another set of eyes look at this,” he said of The Star’s analysis. “I feel the article accurately reflected our current practices.”
For her part, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said her office can’t file criminal charges in most shooting cases when victims don’t want to cooperate from the beginning. But she said her office fights for already-charged cases when victims become progressively less cooperative — which is common, she said.
Baker said she didn’t want to reveal any ideas to improve victim cooperation to The Star until she talks to Forté. But she said she is looking for ways to work with police to achieve more justice.
“I do want to be a good, solid partner in any efforts Darryl Forté rolls out knowing that includes some small things and his bigger vision of improving relationships with the community as a whole.”