KCPD puts new emphasis on supporting victims of crime

The new Victims Support Unit of the Kansas City Police Department wants to be there when families of victims need help, immediately after a crime occurs. While the community rallies around the families of victims, the support unit steps in to help with funeral expenses, medical costs and counseling. Photo courtesy Creative Commons by andydr

At MainCor’s business lunch last week, the Kansas City Police Department victim advocate talked about the department’s new emphasis on victim services. “It’s a big deal when a new division is formed” within the department, Jennifer Miller said. But forming the new Community Support Division was one of the first actions of Chief Darryl Forté, showing how important the new chief thinks victim support is.  The chief wrote about the reasons he wanted to add the unit in his blog on Nov. 22, 2011:

“The department had bits and pieces of victim support, but not a coherent system. The need for this became especially evident to me when the mother of a friend of mine who was killed in a triple homicide called me up with no idea what to do about her son’s body or his funeral. That is something we should be able to help out with.”

Chief of Police Darryl Forté

 Miller has been providing victim services since 1993, but the new division is allowing the department to consolidate and expand support.  The Community Support Division brings together the work of department personnel, department chaplains, other clergy and volunteers. The department is putting more emphasis on going out into the community when crimes impact more than just one family. Miller says by lending support to victims and/or their families, the department is making more resources available to reduce the psychological shock and trauma a victim of violent crime may suffer. Studies show that if a victim gets helps immediately after the crime, the recovery process is accelerated.

 “The goal is to do more than just give people a phone number. I meet with the next of kin of each homicide victim, and help them understand there are programs that can help. I also want them to know who the case investigator is and explain to them how the investigation will go,” she said.

Miller explains that state law requires police to inform victims of the available resources  that may include:

  • The Crime Victims Compensation Program, a state fund that can help with medical expenses, funeral expenses and sometimes counseling. It is supported by court costs paid by offenders. Miller helps families fill out the paperwork and navigate the system.
  • Referrals to counseling services.
  • Referrals to community/social service agencies.
  • Referrals to domestic violence and homeless shelters.
  • Answers about case status, when appropriate.
  • Information about the legal process.

Down the road, Miller said she would like to see the division add a crime prevention program and provide protection for witnesses who are afraid to testify.

Comments are closed.