An in-depth look at KCPD’s several community engagement programs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Police Department has recently become known for its extensive community engagement programs and Chief Rick Smith’s dedication to strengthening the relationship with officers and civilians.

One of KCPD’s most notable community engagement programs is their Citizens Police Academy (CPA). The CPA provides insight into the day-to-day operations of a police officer, and is open to anyone 18 years or older that resides or works in the KC area. Participants learn about the department, officer recruiting and take part in hands-on workshops in areas like criminal investigations, tactical response teams and firearms training. Those interested in finding out more information on the Department’s Citizens Police Academy can visit its webpage

Another one of KCPD’s flagship community engagement programs is the KC Police Athletics League (PAL). The KC PAL is an after school program hosted by the KCPD where kids are invited to come eat a warm meal, hangout, play sports and hopefully bolster relationships with the community’s police officers.

In the summer when there is no school, KC’s PAL opens up earlier and even used to hold summer classes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the week before COVID-19 restrictions. On average, the chapter serves about 300 meals to kids ages 8 to 18 every week and is recognized as one of the most successful PAL chapters in America.

“It’s great because those kids that see us in a different light might end up thinking ‘Hey you know what, maybe all cops aren’t bad,’” PAL Supervisor Sgt. Skip Cox said. “Then they can go home and actually become our allies in their own homes and help break down those barriers with mom and dad or whomever they live with that may have a bad view of police,”

The KCPD also hosts a program called Explorer Post 8600 that’s open to youth and young adults ages 14-20 who are interested in careers in law enforcement. The program allows the “explorers” to learn from veteran police officers and has activities like field trips, special guests, tours of the department and basic training in police tactics. Explorers also have the opportunity to assist KCPD officers in the field with crowd control duties at events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Plaza Art Fair, Plaza Lighting and more.

A large driving force behind the Kansas City Police Department’s extensive community engagement efforts is Chief Rick Smith. Smith won the 2021 Clarence M. Kelley Award for his admirable leadership and has implemented several programs to aid in building trust within the community since becoming Chief in August of 2017. He made the decision to assign social workers to all six Patrol Division Stations, making KCPD the first police department in the nation with such a program. 

Smith also reinstated the Community Interaction Officer (CIO) position to help further a healthy relationship with the community and assigned two CIOs to each division station. Since 2018, the CIOs have attended almost 3,000 community meetings and events and provided close to 400 training engagements with community members. During the pandemic, the department’s CIO officers and social workers were among those who helped provide over 500,000 meals to those in need in Kansas City.

“There is no other person I would rather be serving under, in this time and season, than Chief Rick Smith,” CIO Officer Jason Cooley told The Heartlander. “He has the strength, drive and passion to keep our Department moving in the right direction through multiple storms that we have encountered. It has been my utmost honor to be KCPD under his leadership.”

The KCPD also offers free women’s self-defense seminars for women ages 13 and older and a free ride-along program for those interested in learning more about an officer’s duties. To find out more about the Kansas City Police Department’s community engagement efforts and programs, visit the ‘Get Involved’ tab on their website.

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