Stacey Graves, the first female police chief hired in the department’s 148-year history, says she’s ready to tackle those issues and more head on – after all, she has more than a quarter century of experience policing Kansas City and knows the city well.





KC Police Chief Stacey Graves says she’s ready to listen to the voices of the people in the city she’s proudly served over her long career. “I listen. I hear people. I meet people where they are, and we have real conversations,” Graves says.



“I really want to bring hope and forward progress and positivity in my leadership”









By Joe Arce and Corey Crable

An in-depth report


Ask any leader of a large organization, and they’ll tell you that the first 100 days of their tenure set the tone for the direction in which they want to take those they lead.


And for the newly hired police chief of the Kansas City Police Department, Stacey Graves, it’s no different – the first three months of her new position will see the KCPD veteran tackling a number of big issues. Ensuring transparency in the department’s dealings. Listening to the voices of community members. A recruitment and retention campaign. Finding a solution to the problem of violent crime and soaring homicide rates that have plagued the city for years. But Graves, the first female police chief hired in the department’s 148-year history, says she’s ready to tackle those issues and more head on – after all, she has more than a quarter century of experience policing Kansas City and knows the city well.


“While I’m thankful to be the first woman chief in the KCPD, I look forward to people not focusing on it,” Graves tells Kansas City Hispanic News from police headquarters. “I’ve seen women recognize and welcome me. It’s been wonderful I love it when women congratulate me and tell me they support me. But I’m a police chief first who just happens to be a woman. In my mind, I was the best candidate for the job.”


Before she endured a rigorous interview and hiring process, which included several community listening sessions sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Graves said she prayed about whether to even apply for the position. Now, after listening to God’s voice on the matter, Graves says she’s ready to listen to the voices of the people in the city she’s proudly served over her long career.


“I listen. I hear people I meet people where they are, and we have real conversations,” Graves says. “When you have these real conversations and try to understand things from (other people’s) perspective, you can know what people want and how they want to be policed.”


Listening is a large part of community policing, and it’s become even more important in the years following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer and the protests that took place in the aftermath.


“If I’m going to talk, I’m going to start by listening,” Graves says. “I’m a supporter of embodying community policing. You need to be out there doing it. … It’s up to each one of us, no matter our rank or where we are assigned.”


One of the concerns from citizens from communities touched by those protests has been a desire to see the racial makeup of the community reflected in those officers policing its streets, Graves notes.


“As long as I’ve been on, we have tried to include diversity in our ranks, and that has been more of an effort over the years,” Graves says. “Nationwide, it’s still hard to recruit. Everyone is still raw after George Floyd, all the conflict and strife. From that, I’d say we do go out and have millions of contacts every day, but these bad incidents overshadow (the positive incidents), and then that’s how people view us. But we don’t talk about the positive enough.”


That acknowledgment of the importance of diversity on the police force continued this week as the department welcomed Luis Ortiz as one of three new deputy police chief. Ortiz is only the second Hispanic deputy police chief on the KCPD, with the first being deputy police chief Vince Ortega.


“Ortiz is the right person for the job. These are people who are qualified for the position, and they have the heart for it. They care about the police department. It isn’t just a job. … They want what’s best for Kansas City,” Graves says of the three newly promoted officers.


It’s part of a larger effort to boost morale among the department’s employees, who number more than a thousand.


“I’ve lived through those times when morale was low. Anytime you don’t have a seated chief, there is instability in staff because you’re wondering what’s coming next, who will get their job, what their vision is going to be,” Graves explains. “And when a new chief comes in, everyone thinks, ‘OK, what are they going to do?’”


She continues: “I really want to bring hope and forward progress and positivity in my leadership. Success for me is knowing our members feel valued internally and externally. They should have a sense of inclusion for advancement opportunities. Everyone should have an opportunity for your name to come across somebody’s desk (for a promotion). … Externally, I want the community to know the great men and women who are here who serve them every day.”


One of the ways in which those men and women serve their city is by having crisis intervention training (CIT) – the ability to recognize mental health issues and to de-escalate potentially violent conflicts. Currently, KCPD has five officers trained in CIT, though Graves says she wants to open up the training to the entire force.


“My plan is to ensure every officer has crisis intervention training, so they have the de-escalation skills to bring a situation to a peaceful end,” she says.


Another goal that Graves says she can tackle right away is maintaining transparency in the department’s dealings, both externally and internally, knowing that some sensitive information about internal investigations can’t be shared.


“Some people don’t know our internal investigation processes,” Graves says. “When you look at those situations, there ae some things I can and can’t say, or it would jeopardize the investigation. But I hope I can ease some of those situations we’ll come across. If I don’t have real, actionable items behind transparency, it’s just lip service.”


Meanwhile, Graves’ goal of continued community policing can already be seen in action at the Westside CAN Center, of which she is a longtime advocate. She gives special credit to Officer Chato Villalobos for keeping the CAN Center a vital part of the Westside.


“He just embodies community policing. I love that we have someone in the community who is so loved and accepted, both externally and internally,” Graves says. “(The Westside CAN Center) is so unique, and that’s due in part to the officers we put there, and that the people of the Westside want to be a part of it. It just works.”


The CAN Center is just one component of the community that makes the Westside a special place, Graves adds.


“All of the different pockets in our city are so unique and diverse,” she says. “It makes us such a fun city.”


Ensuring all of Graves’ goals for the KCPD become reality, however, will take patience – and a lot of teamwork between the department and the community.


“I can’t do it without the community – all areas of the community,” Graves says. “We are not going to be successful without the community being involved in its police department.” On Thursday, January 26, 2023 the Westside community will celebrate KCPD Chief Stacey Graves new promotion with a community meeting at 5:30 p.m. and residents are invited to attend at the Mattie Rhodes Cultural Arts Center, 1701 Jarboe Street, KCMO 64108.