Safety and protection

Stronger through...

Four Department of Corrections officers in uniform in a bunk room

Department of Correction officers and the Problem Solving Bed Program serve individuals experiencing homelessness who are also justice-involved.

...maintaining criminal justice and public safety during the pandemic

Providing law enforcement, emergency response and criminal justice cannot cease, even during a pandemic. Johnson County Government departments, agencies and offices that provide these essential services developed innovative ways to continue in 2021.

Johnson County Tenth Judicial District Court, the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, the Kansas Supreme Court and other partners worked together for the second year of the pandemic to ensure court proceedings and hearings took place in the safest way possible. Throughout the year, as the Kansas Supreme Court Administrative Orders were pandemic transitioned through various phases, Kansas Supreme Court Administrative Orders were issued and local transition plans were implemented, following the guidance of health experts, to increase or decrease mitigation efforts as needed. At times, jury trials were postponed, and proceedings took place virtually. Masks and physical distancing were enforced when needed, jury selection took place in multiple rooms, and plastic dividers were installed in the jury box. These are just a few examples of mitigation efforts used at the Johnson County Courthouse to protect those involved in the criminal justice system.

The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office used innovation and technology to help keep people safe. In 2021, the District Attorney’s Office hit the 1,000 mark for traffic cases being diverted to an online system. This allowed Johnson County residents to save time and money and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In 2021, Detention Command at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office continued to use innovative solutions to deal with COVID-19. Staff members worked as a cohesive team, with partners outside of the Sheriff’s Office, to proactively mitigate potential outbreaks within both detention facilities. These solutions included medically screening all new arrests in the garage area prior to entering the Intake Processing area, waiving the co-pay for inmates requesting to see the nurse due to any COVID-19 symptoms and implementing protocols for isolating presumptive positive cases. Their efforts were extremely successful. To date, the Johnson County detention centers are the only facilities of their size and Adult Daily Population numbers in this region to not have had a major outbreak of COVID among their staff and/or inmate population.

COVID-19 impacted Johnson County MED-ACT by greatly reducing the number of available certified candidates to fill open paramedic positions. Coupled with retirements in 2020 and 2021, MED-ACT needed to be innovative in its hiring. At the end of 2021, MED-ACT implemented a plan to start hiring EMTs, integrating a whole new level of care into its system and providing more opportunities to those in the emergency medical field. The pandemic also required MED-ACT to implement several different methods of ambulance decontamination to ensure units were clean and safe. In addition, MED-ACT personnel provided hundreds of hours of coverage at multiple vaccination clinics.

In 2021, staff members in the Emergency Communications division modified their processes taking 911 calls to ensure that they were identifying COVID positive or symptomatic patients ahead of FIRE/EMS arrival.

...collaborating to protect our community from crisis, disaster and danger

Johnson County’s Emergency Management division is focused on protecting the community in times of disaster – natural or man-made. While a good amount of 2021 was focused on COVID response, staff also had to put resources towards severe weather response. Our Emergency Operations Center was opened four times for severe weather in 2021, including an EF-0 tornado on March 15 that struck Overland Park and unincorporated parts of Johnson County. In addition, the Emergency Management team updated the county’s Emergency Operations Plan throughout 2021, receiving approval of the plan from the Board of County Commissioners in December 2021.

Many in Johnson County Government and residents in the unincorporated area collaborated on a serious issue in 2021 – safety concerns due to stray gunfire. On Aug. 26, 2021, the BOCC passed a resolution for the county’s unincorporated area, making it a county code violation to discharge a firearm resulting in gunfire leaving one property and entering another where permission or consent to do so has not been granted by a property owner, even if that gunfire does not strike a neighbor’s home, car, tree or other property. The resolution allows for firearm discharge complaints to be investigated by the Sheriff’s Office with violations prosecuted in Johnson County District Court in the County Codes division. Collaboration was key, as shown through how residents in the unincorporated area played a role in increasing safety in their communities.

Ambulances at night

Ambulances at night.

...working together towards a more efficient delivery of emergency services

In July, the BOCC approved the reorganization of several Johnson County emergency services. The resolution established a Department of Emergency Services, which includes the divisions of – Emergency Medical Services (MED-ACT) and Emergency Management and Communications (which includes 911 services). The reorganization also transferred the medical director, including related employees, to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

Another reorganization in 2021 will result in the more efficient delivery of fire services in southeastern Johnson County. In October 2021, sitting as the governing body of Johnson County Fire District No. 2, the BOCC authorized two separate agreements to evenly split and transfer Fire District No. 2 services to the City of Overland Park and Johnson County Fire District No. 1.

Emergency service improved with the opening of a new MED-ACT station on 9011 Roe Ave to once again serve the southern portion of Prairie Village and northeast Johnson County. The county purchased the building in the fall of 2020, about a year after Consolidated Fire District 2 moved to its new station near 78th and Mission Road.

...the right people, in the right place

Johnson County Department of Corrections, Johnson County District Court, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and Johnson County Mental Health Center work together to ensure that individuals can navigate the justice system and receive appropriate placement.

One example of placing the right people in the right place is the Problem Solving Beds program, introduced in 2021. This is a program for individuals experiencing homelessness who are also justice-involved. For up to 60 days, these individuals can receive a bed and three meals a day. Additionally, they can receive services from the medical department and mental health professionals on staff, transportation to and from work, and help from a resource developer if they need to find employment.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office continued its partnership with Johnson County Mental Health Center to provide more services in the Adult Detention Centers. The Medication Assisted Treatment program began in 2021 for Johnson County residents who struggle with opioid addiction. The Sheriff’s Office and Mental Health Center continue to build on this substance abuse treatment program with the goal to continue services once clients are released.

District Attorney Steve Howe and investigators posing with a photo of Gary Watson, a black man murdered 1985.

The Johnson County Sherif’s Ofce provides advanced investigative services through its 15-person Investigations Division. Investigative staf routinely assist and collaborate with investigators from various law enforcement agencies within Johnson County.

...collaborating on data to optimize criminal justice and public safety

Johnson County Government is a best practice county for utilizing data-driven criminal justice efforts to address for utilizing data-driven criminal justice efforts to address the root causes of criminal behavior, helping to create a better community. Many initiatives surfaced in 2021 that resulted in the high-level data collection, analysis and reporting available in Johnson County.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office provides advanced investigative services through its 15-person Investigations Division, including crimes against property, crimes against persons, financial crimes, cybercrimes and intel/crime analysis. In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office solved two cold cases. This was accomplished because of data, expertise and collaboration.

The Juvenile Detention Center participates in Performance Based Standards to ensure its operating at the highest standards. The Juvenile Detention Center is currently participating with 40 other agencies across the country, which allows us to compare ourselves to standardized metrics being collected nationwide. There have been four reporting cycles since beginning this data collection. The Detention Center has scored above average in 25 key areas targeting measurements in Health (client), Order, Safety, and Security. The Juvenile Detention Center created a targeted Facility Improvement Plan in January 2021, and continues to score above average in client and staff not fearing for their safety.