Kansas City homicide detectives worked grueling 28-day Murder Squad rotations for decades before Deputy Chief Kevin Masters shook things up and shortened the rotation in 2011.
Questioning the status quo was something Masters did a lot during his 27-year career with the Kansas City Police Department, said Police Chief Darryl Forté.
“He demonstrated a revolutionary approach to many challenges,” Forté said. “He helped me develop because he was willing to ask different questions.”
Masters, 50, retired from the department Monday to pursue a second career as director of government relations for Kansas City Public Schools.
While overseeing the Investigations Bureau in recent years, Masters became convinced the rotations worked by homicide detectives were too harsh. One month out of every three, the detectives worked the Murder Squad, during which they were constantly on call, investigating the city’s toughest cases and often pulling marathon shifts after each fresh homicide.
“I saw how (an assignment to) homicide ripped families apart,” Masters said. “I said, ‘We have to change how it works because it’s killing them. We need to give them relief.’”
So Masters and other commanders added a fourth homicide squad to the rotation, shortened the Murder Squad rotation to 14 days and added two weeks of a “follow-up” rotation that would allow detectives more time to work on their cases. The unit’s rate of solving homicides increased to 66 percent that year, up from 41 percent the previous year.
“He understood that benefits to the staff would turn into benefits for the community.” said Maj. Rosilyn Allen. “He was truly a problem solver.”
Masters said the high points of his career were making relationships and rising into the role of a policymaker, where he could act as a resource to help others. He spent his last 10 years at the department’s second-highest rank and oversaw each of the department’s five bureaus with brutal honesty and a no-nonsense approach, co-workers said.
Even at the end of his career, Masters still enjoyed basic patrol work. He answered a call for service one day last month at 3 a.m. while driving around in one of the city’s “hotspots” to develop a plan for better deployment of officers.
“I didn’t ever lose the police officer, the detective, in me,” said Masters, who was one of five finalists for the police chief’s job last year. “I love public service. This new job will keep me, in some respects, in public service. I’ll be doing some of the same things, forging collaborations.”