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KC Police Chief says department will no longer have its officers patrol KCI Airport

·3 min read

Citing an ongoing staffing shortage, Kansas City police officers will no longer patrol the Kansas City International Airport, Police Chief Rick Smith announced Tuesday.

The eight officers currently assigned to KCI would be reassigned to other patrol functions beginning Sunday, Smith told members of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners during their monthly meeting.

“For several years we have tried to maintain a presence up there,” Smith said. “It now becomes time to start looking about reallocating our airport officers back into regular patrol duties at our patrol divisions due to lack of staff.”

Smith said the police command staff has reviewed staffing at the patrol north of the Missouri River and determined that North Patrol Division was down 11 officers and Shoal Creek Patrol Division was without 13 officers.

“Our two divisions up north are probably the least staffed, they cover the most mileage,” he said. “It also means that we have the officers up there, it takes them longer to respond to calls.”

Smith noted that the police board approved the move during its September meeting.

Airport passengers should not experience any significant changes in security measures. KCPD officers will continue to respond to 911 calls for service or any requests for assistance from KCI Police.

In June, Mayor Quinton Lucas and Councilwoman Teresa Loar, 2nd District at-large, introduced a resolution to have the city manager devise a plan to replace KCI’s current police force with KCPD officers.

On Tuesday, Lucas said that he wished the police department would continue to have officers assigned to patrol the airport.

“I wished we would have been able to come to some agreement or compromise in terms of how we could get these parties working together,” he said after the police board meeting.

Lucas previously said having KCPD patrol the airport would allow the city to shift some of those officers to the Aviation Department’s budget. KCPD officers respond to incidents at KCI but are not compensated by the Aviation Department.

“This is an incredible impact on everyday Kansas Citians,” Lucas said Tuesday. “It continues to be my view there is budget opportunity and availability in the tune of millions of dollars.”

He also noted that Smith recently announced that the downtown foot patrol would be discontinued because of fewer officers and those assigned to the unit plan to retire at the end of the year.

“I don’t agree with any move that takes police officers out of patrol areas be that the airport, be that downtown, be that any of our neighborhoods that is paying for bureaucracy,” Lucas said.

Police officers at KCI, who comprise an independent police service, are certified through the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training Program or POST, which licenses law enforcement in the state. The airport police division has a total staff of 96, of which 50 are law enforcement officers.

Smith said the department continues to face staffing problems. While it has started an academy class, a number of officers have resigned or retired. By October, the number of sworn officers was expected dip below 1,200. Its budget for the current fiscal year allows the police department to have more than 1,400.

To remedy that, Loar and fellow council members Heather Hall, Kevin O’Neill and Dan Fowler have proposed spending $2,172,000 to pay for a 104-person academy class for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“Again, it’s a personnel led driven need for the police department,” Smith said.

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