New police chief Stacey Graves takes questions at a Monday's meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance. PHoto by Bill Rankin

KCPD Chief Stacey Graves addresses issues with south KC residents

“We have more funding than officers.”

By Don Bradley

New Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves appeared before a packed house January 16 at South Patrol and opened the floor to whatever anybody wanted to talk about.

‘Racism, excessive force, I’m open,” she told the meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance. “We need to break down the adversarial wall between the community and the police department. Nothing is off the table.”

Her overarching theme as she begins the new job? Building a bridge between police and the people they serve.

“We might have some uncomfortable conversations and we might not like what each other says.”

For the next hour or so, she took questions about gun violence, drug houses, lack of traffic enforcement, homeless camps, New Year’s Eve celebratory gunfire, jail needs and an officer shortage that some believe already shortchanges neighborhoods most in need of police presence.

“I’m aware of crime out here and we are short-handed,” Graves said. “We have more funding than officers.”

She told the audience that part of the problem is that patrol officers who would normally respond to 911 calls sometimes get diverted to other duties because of the staffing shortage.

The department plans a recruitment push to make sure more officers are on the streets, she said. The department will look at salaries, benefits and shifts as a way to not only improve the hiring of new officers but also retention of those already on the force.

Graves, a 25-year veteran, was appointed to the top job in December becoming the first woman to head the department in its 148-year history. She joined the department in 1997 and has served as a patrol officer and a detective with vice and narcotics units.

In 2001, she was awarded a medal of valor after shooting a suspect who took a gun from another office and pointed it at her.

She comes to the chief’s job at a time when the department is facing scrutiny for alleged racism and the shootings of several black men. The U.S. Justice Department is looking into the department’s hiring practices. The criticism played out as former chief Rick Smith made plans to leave the department.

Graves was the only internal finalist for the job.

She was asked about the city’s homicide rate which hit 169 in 2022, putting it at one of the worst in the country in terms of per-capita killings.

Many of those murders, she said, occur in neighborhoods that see violence generation after generation.

“You hear the gunshots, you see the sirens,” she said. “We need to get into those neighborhoods. It’s going to take everyone to help.”

A man asked about the perceived strained relationship between KCPD and county prosecutor’s office. Graves nodded and said she had already appointed a major to serve as liaison between the two bodies.

Someone told Graves she worried about the department’s new rule that allows officers to live outside the city limits. The woman liked having an officer on the block.

Graves countered that officers come running when needed.

“The men and women of KCPD are dedicated, they respond,” she said. She mentioned the police response to the recent shooting at Ward Parkway Shopping Center.

“I was so proud of our officers that day,” Graves said.

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