Maj. Rick Smith — vowing to work to reduce crime — was sworn in Tuesday as the Kansas City Police Department’s 45th police chief.
Missouri Supreme Court Justice W. Brent Powell administered the oath to Smith before an audience that packed the police headquarters’ community room. Powell and Smith worked together previously when Powell was an assistant prosecutor and Smith was a Kansas City detective.
After the swearing in, Smith said he ready to get to work as the city’s new police chief. He listed three main goals: set up employees for success; reduce crime, and build effective community partnerships.
“My goal is to get Kansas City off the 10 Most Violent Crime list,” Smith said. “That’s a lofty goal. It’s a big goal but if I had one goal, that’s the goal. That’s what we’re going to work towards.”
Smith said that he’s going to bring to the chief’s office a community initiative officer who will to work on coordinating crime prevention initiatives.
He vowed to continue the community engagement that the department’s leadership has been known for.
“I very much like that aspect, so we’re going to continue to look at opportunities where we can be hand-in-hand again through effective partnerships,” he said.
The community will be watching Smith for whether he continues the community outreach work of former chiefs Darryl Forté, Jim Corwin and Rick Easley.
“We’ll hoping that he will be strong in the community and we also just pray that he will build upon what has been carried on from the last three police chiefs,” the Rev. John Modest Miles, pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church.
In March, Police Chief Darryl Forté announced that he would retire in May. The police board quickly launched a nationwide search for a new chief.
Smith will guide a department with more than 1,800 sworn officers and civilian employees as well as an annual operating budget of $250.8 million.
Smith said he will explore ways to reduce the recent dramatic jump in homicides, which stands at 89, and a continued rise in gun and street violence.
From 2014 to 2016, the city experienced a 64 percent spike in nonfatal shootings, an increase from 290 in 2014 to 477 last year. And it appears those numbers will continue to climb.
Smith has said he wanted to be a police officer since he was 5 years old, growing up in Minnesota.
His appointment to police chief is the culmination of a career that began with the department in 1988.
“When I came here, I never thought this day would come and I never thought it would be possible,” he said Tuesday. “When I say that I'm honored, I'm really honored.”
Smith has worked as a patrol officer, tactical response officer and supervisor in the homicide unit and elsewhere.
Prior to being appointed police chief Smith had been the commander of the Central Patrol Division on East Linwood Boulevard. Before that, Smith was the department’s project manager assigned to the Kansas City No Violence Alliance.
Smith said previously that he would work with the city’s faith-based community to foster better relationships between law enforcement and citizens.
He also plans to add more patrol officers on the streets and embed social workers at each of the city’s six patrol divisions. Smith said the social worker assigned to the Central Patrol has been instrumental in stemming unruly youths who had frequented entertainment districts, including the Country Club Plaza.
In his first act as the city’s 45th police chief on Tuesday, Smith broke protocol and walked into the crowd of well wishers and picked up his granddaughter, Eleanor.
“She was calling for her poppy so I had to pick her up,” Smith said.