KCPD officer Luis Ortiz promoted to deputy police chief

Ortiz says building trust with Latino community will be integral to department’s success

“I appreciate all the support from the Hispanic and Latino communities,” Deputy Luis Ortiz says. “I understand their needs, and I understand the need to have someone represent us.”

KCPD officer Luis Ortiz has been moving up in the ranks for the last 23 years. He feels it awas faith and hard work that got him promoted to deputy police chief.

By Joe Arce and Corey Crable
An in-depth report

New Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves has called upon three of her best majors to serve in an elevated position as deputy police chiefs, hiring only the second Hispanic man to serve in the role. Deputy Police Chief Luis Ortiz joined two other officers in a ceremony celebrating the deputy chief promotions. It’s Ortiz’s fourth promotion in the 23 years he’s served the Kansas City Police Department.

When Graves’ hiring was announced, Ortiz, who is from El Salvador, says he knew that promotions would be coming – you don’t apply for them, but are instead personally selected by the police chief to ascend the ranks. When he received a call from Graves, his suspicions were confirmed. He was one of them.

“I was surprised, especially because I know the talent that is out there,” Ortiz tells Kansas City Hispanic News. Chief Graves informed him by phone of his promotion. “The phone call was a blessing according to Ortiz. “I know what they (our police officers) bring to the table and what great people they are. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. … It was one of those phone calls I’ll never forget.”

Ortiz says he’s always dedicated himself “100 percent” to the KCPD, and that he holds himself to a high standard, just as the community should – especially the Hispanic and Latino communities.

“I appreciate all the support from the Hispanic and Latino communities,” Ortiz says. “I understand their needs, and I understand the need to have someone represent us. But we want to make sure we’re the most qualified. I want us to be there because of our work ethic. That’s what I want everybody to see.”

Ortiz added he wants people to know that he has worked hard in preparation of this promotion. He’s proud of his heritage but most importantly he feels he has earned all of his promotions throughout his career because of his work ethic and his dedication to being a police officer in KCMO.

Former police officer Vince Ortega, told Hispanic News, “First of all, congratulations Luis Ortiz on his promotion to Deputy Chief. I have considered him a friend and not just a professional colleague. He has all the characteristics of an outstanding human being.

The fact is he’s only the second Latino/Hispanic to be promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief in the history of the Kansas City Police Department. I was first—promoted to Deputy Chief in 2004. Accordingly, that means it’s been almost 20 years for another Latino/Hispanic to be promoted to this high of a rank.

I understand all the factors that go into a career with the KCPD and department’s promotional process therefore, I am excited Chief Graves has promoted our new Deputy Chief, Luis Ortiz. He is qualified in all aspects and an exemplary great leader. Stacey Graves becoming our city’s first female Police Chief and Luis’ promotion gives the KCPD a leadership that reflects the ever-changing diversity of Kansas City.

I know Luis will be an effective conduit between the police department and the community it serves.”

Ortiz says he’s thankful that, as a bilingual officer, he’s able to speak to the people in his community in their native language. “It is a blessing, how I’m able to connect with the Hispanics in the Northeast and the Westside. We have to meet them where they are,” Ortiz observes. “It’s always nice to be able to explain to them in Spanish what’s going on. It’s a trust we start building with the community.”

And he has earned that trust, he says, sharing one of his favorite tales from his career. The Latino community gave Ortiz one of his most memorable stories from his time as a police officer, when Hispanic and Latino informants helped him bring down a major drug ring.

“I was in a street narcotics unit gang squad. I remember getting so much information about the work I was doing at that time, and that relationship I developed with the informants led the department to have one of the most successful (stings), and that’s because of the Hispanic community that I was working with,” Ortiz recalls. I had people calling me with information – they were enthusiastic and wanted to make the community better, and that’s how we were able to recover hundreds of thousands of kilos of cocaine, weapons and money.“

But there are just as many stories that Ortiz wishes he could forget – stories of grief and loss, and the shattering of lives.

“I was a young officer in East Patrol Division, and I went to a house because a Hispanic couple was concerned about their 2 year-old-daughter. We found out that (the adults who were watching the child) had been involved in a car accident and the daughter had passed away. It was gut wrenching. That one stuck with me because of the pain I saw in the family.”

Many people, Ortiz continues, don’t realize the “human side” of police officers – that the horrific cases on which they work can take their toll on them emotionally.

“Many people don’t realize how some cases affect us,” he explains. “I recently went to a house where a 5-year-old was murdered by his own mother. It was despicable. I don’t remember how I got home from work after that because my mind was somewhere else.”

Ortega added, “Policing in today’s world is extremely complicated because of social media, politics, individual perceptions… The list goes on. However, if you are truly committed to the community you serve, as Deputy Chief Ortiz has always been, and if you want to be a difference maker and create meaningful changes, you have to truly be in the community. You have to meet people where they live and work, listen to their concerns, ask for their suggestions, and include them in finding solutions to problems.

Many of our vulnerable communities have an inordinate about violent crime and drug abuse. They lack vital and essential resources beyond the scope of the police department. That necessitates building relationships and trust not only in the community, but building partnerships with social service agencies, the courts, Prosecutor’s Office, the City of Kansas City, the faith-based communities, health care providers and more. Creating safe neighborhoods is a collaborative effort. To be a true change agent, you not only have to be a leader, but you also must be a convener, bringing people together a facilitator, getting them talking and a hands-on contributor, rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work necessary to implement real change. I know that exactly the kind of person Deputy Chief Luis Ortiz is.

The department and community are fortunate to have deputy Chief Luis Oritz, and the other leaders with whom Chief Graves has surrounded herself.” Still, Ortiz says, working for the KCPD has been the fulfillment of his dream career since childhood – and it’s a dream he wants Kansas City’s Latino youths to share with him, knowing that they don’t often see themselves represented among the ranks of police.

“These Hispanic kids should see that they, too, can have a future in the police department,” he says. “It’s one of the most honorable careers.”