The Kansas City Police Department released a long-awaited workload and staffing study on Friday, an exhaustive report that’s crammed with facts, figures, observations and serious recommendations.
Others ideas are more critical. Kansas City, the study says, should fill 37 vacant patrol positions immediately — with existing personnel if needed — and authorize another 38 positions. That would boost authorized patrol positions by roughly seven percent.
But the number of uniformed sergeants should be cut, the report says. Civilians should assume dozens of jobs now performed by uniformed personnel. Some patrol divisions are far busier than others, suggesting a need to redraw boundaries. And so on.
No one should expect the city and the department to adopt all of the recommendations, or even most of them. Local officials and citizens will want to closely study the report before agreeing to dramatic shifts in department policy and approach.
But the report, based on surveys, ride-alongs, interviews and data, is an essential blueprint for a city plagued with violent crime. It says Kansas City could do more — much more — to effectively use the $250 million taxpayers will provide this year for the public’s safety.
This study, which weighs in at more than 300 pages, must not sit on a shelf, gathering dust.
“Government organizations should periodically review the services that they deliver,” the report says. “Public safety operations are not exempt.”
We could not agree more. Here are some recommendations from the study that deserve consideration:
▪ Discontinue two-officer patrol cars except in special circumstances. The department now has 400 interceptor cars for 445 filled officer patrol positions.
▪ Reconfigure boundaries for the six patrol divisions to better utilize personnel and improve community policing.
▪ Turn some functions now performed by uniformed officers over to civilians, including logistics support, property and evidence, as well as fleet operations.
▪ Consider eliminating polygraph tests for new employees.
▪ Study consolidating the finance departments of the police and City Hall.
▪ Re-evaluate work schedules. “It is not enough for patrol units to function as call responders,” the report says. Officers must have time to engage communities and pursue anti-crime strategies as well.
The study also says the Board of Police Commissioners must do its job better. “There is a distinct lack of any performance metrics at all in the department for either internal or external use,” it says.
We don’t know yet if this would save significant money. Even if the recommendations are spending-neutral, though, they are worth pursuing if they help cut the violent crime rate, which has risen 21 percent during the past five years.
New police board members and the next chief now have a road map for making Kansas City safer. They will have some reading to do.