Just days before his retirement, Kansas City Police Department Police Chief Rick Smith said he disbanded the missing persons unit as a result of a shortage of police officers.

Smith said he reassigned those in the missing persons cold case squad to regular homicide and regular assault squad two weeks ago.

While the unit will remain in existence and detectives will follow up on new leads on those cases, Smith said those former missing persons cold case squad detectives will no longer be actively working those cases. He said the department just didn’t have enough detectives.

A KCPD spokesperson said positions in the missing persons cold case squad would remain available as staffing increases.

It was a move that concerned Mayor Quinton Lucas, who responded to the news on Twitter, saying it was a disservice to victims’ families. Lucas, who sits on the Board of Police Commissioners, said he’s seeking to reverse the decision at the police board level.

“I am very concerned that the Chief in his final weeks has unilaterally elected to cut the cold case squad, without a public vote or discussion by the Police Board, when at the same time, the Council-approved police budget, for which I fought hard, gives KCPD a 4.7% increase,” Lucas wrote in a Tweet.

In March, the city passed the new budget, allocating $269 million to KCPD. The department revealed they would allocate $4 million of its funding toward hiring 88 officers.

“With a $12m budget increase for next year, I cannot fathom why command staff at the eleventh hour would eliminate this vital area of crime fighting and send a signal to hundreds of Kansas Citians that we are giving up on justice for their loved ones,” Lucas tweeted.

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