KC Police Chief pleads for increased funding as hire freeze and staffing shortages worsen

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith announced that the department has been under a hiring freeze recently, and the freeze will continue if proper funding isn’t allocated towards the KC Police Department.

Chief Smith mentioned various issues with the current state of the police department in a blog post on Friday.

“So far in 2021, we are losing 8.5 officers per month to attrition,” the blog post read. “Last year the average was 7.58 per month. The number has risen steadily since 2011, when the average officer loss was just 3.25 per month.”

Smith noted that filling vacancies in the department usually isn’t an issue, but that’s not the case anymore as funding has restricted their ability to staff new officers.

“This usually is not much of an issue because we are able to fill those positions with new recruits coming out of the Academy,” Smith said. “We have not had an Academy class since February 2020 due to funding, however, so we have continued to fall farther and farther behind on staffing. We are down 116 officers and do not have the budget to replace them.”

Smith mentioned inevitable cuts to programs like their Youth Services Unit that helps build relationships with students if the department doesn’t secure the funding for them. He also mentioned increased response times to 911 calls due to lack of officers available and reductions of professional staff within the department. 

“We’re losing about seven non-sworn staff members per month,” Smith said. “How does this impact the public? One example is our Crime Laboratory. We are down 11 people there currently, which is 15% of the staff. This will lead to case backlogs and significant delays in solving crimes using science and technology.”

According to Smith, Kansas City received almost $100 million from the American Rescue Plan and he pleaded with residents for their support in securing some of that funding.

“We are asking for the community’s support to get the funding to end our hiring freeze,” Smith said. “The City received $97.5 million from the American Rescue Plan. We ask that you ask your city council members to allocate some of that to the Police Department so that we can provide the timely response, criminal investigations and much-needed community engagement you deserve.”

“A safe city drives economic development, which improves everyone’s quality of life,” the blog post continued. “Given our current budgetary restrictions, we are increasingly unable to provide the kind of service our community has come to expect.”

In February, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas proposed a budget that included cutting $11.8 million from the Kansas City Police Department. Lucas blamed the proposed cuts on Congress, claiming they failed to provide aid for local governments to assist with decreased revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To the contrary, the Kansas City Fire Department’s funding actually increased compared to last year’s budget. However, Chris Hernandez, the Director of City Communications for KC, told The Heartlander the increase is “unrelated to pandemic-related budget cuts in other departments.”

Hernandez said KCFD has an increased budget for three reasons: a voter-approved sales tax, they receive a portion of the local use tax, and an “increase in General Fund monies, because of current union contracts and those increased personnel costs.”

Many have wondered why the Fire Department didn’t receive any cuts even though they have additional sources of funding that KCPD does not. When asked why the cuts were specifically targeting KCPD instead of other departments with more flexible budgets, Hernandez did not respond in time for publishing.

City Council can anticipate more pressure to increase KCPD’s budget in the future as the staffing concerns are expected to only worsen without increased funding.

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