KCPD sees sharp decline in officers

KCPD has experienced a shortage in officers throughout the year. (Rich Sugg/KC Star)

Gabe Bartholome

The Kansas City Police Department has been experiencing a decrease in officers throughout the last year and a half, causing concerns over safety and security for Kansas City and police response times. 

Back in May, KCPD Chief Richard Smith released a statement connecting the decline in officers to the lack of academy classes. 

“We have not had an academy class since February 2020 due to funding, so we have continued to fall farther and farther behind on staffing,” Smith said. “We are down 116 officers and do not have the budget to replace them.”

As of a September staffing report, that 116 number has increased to 155.

UMKC criminology professor Ken Novak suggested that George Floyd’s murder and the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to officers leaving the force.

“Police are certainly frontline workers who can’t work from home,” Novak said. “I think that the events of last year, particularly related to George Floyd and everything that came after that, really took a toll on officers… Policing as an industry has been under a level of scrutiny that we had not seen in a long time.”

However, according to UMKC graduate and KCPD Sgt. Jake Becchina, academy classes are slowly starting back up again and are expected to bring in enough sworn members to replace those who have left.

“We have an academy class of 32 recruit officers that started in early September,” Becchina said. “A few of them have dropped out already, but that’s the first class we’ve done in a year and a half.”

It will take at least 10 months before these recruits can be fully trained, but Becchina said he is optimistic that the police will eventually see a return to its numbers as more classes start in the future. He also said that, while the decrease in officers is a setback, KCPD will remain functional.

“The police department will always be here,” Becchina said. “There will always be people who are called to serve their community and try to make their community a better version of itself than what it was yesterday, and as long as those people exist in the world, they’ll have a place in our department.”

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