KANSAS CITY (AP) — Police in Kansas City no longer will provide suspects with a written copy of their rights and instead will give them a verbal Miranda warning as part of changes aimed at tackling violent crime.
Two Los Angeles murder investigation experts recommended the change, arguing that written warnings could deter suspects from talking to police, public radio station KCUR-FM reported.
The experts noted that keeping suspects talking is key because "confessions may occur, but admissions, lies or false alibis, can also be important."
At least 134 people have been murdered in Kansas City so far this year, up from about 121 at this time last year, according to police reports.
Homicides are also up in St. Louis and Springfield, and the killings of close to two dozen children in St. Louis put intense pressure on officials to act.
But it's unclear how much of an impact the change to Miranda warnings will have.
"It hasn't made a significant change, but we're hoping to see more of that over time," Kansas City police Deputy Chief Roger Lewis, who commands criminal investigations, told KCUR.
City District Public Defender Ruth Petsch warned that “it puts you at risk of eroding your right to remain silent." She said a written waiver, in contrast, clearly shows that the Miranda warning was given.
National Association of Police Organizations Executive Director Bill Johnson told The Associated Press that police often read Miranda warnings to suspects while in the field and also provide written copies during more formal interviews.
Johnson, a former police officer and prosecutor, said verbal warnings ensure that suspects who struggle reading are still properly informed of their rights.
But either way, Johnson said most people are already aware of their right to remain silent because of the phrase's popularity in crime shows and movies. He added that suspects often don’t take time to more deeply reflect on their rights after being arrested or while being interviewed by police, regardless of how they’re informed.
The consultant's report also called for Kansas City police to increase staffing. The agency in response plans to end its mounted division and shift eight officers to homicide starting in January.