Michael Bushnell

For Kansas City, MO Police Department Major Santiago Garza, being assigned as the new commander at East Patrol was like coming home. Last week, as part of the department’s standard, 12-18 month rotation schedule, a number of promotions and transfers were initiated by the department’s command staff.

As part of those rotations, Sergeant Jake Becchina, who has been with the department’s media unit for a little over three years, was promoted to Captain and now oversees the media unit.

Major Martin Cobbinah, East Patrol’s commander since January 2023 was transferred to the Investigations Unit under former East Patrol Major Doug Neimeier, who now serves as one of the department’s Deputy Chiefs.

Cobbinah’s replacement is Major Santiago “Sonny” Garza, a 27-year department veteran. Garza is no stranger to Northeast having served as a Sergeant here as well as a Community Action Network (CAN) Officer back in the early 2000’s. “There was a time when we knew all the players on the Avenue and they knew us,” Garza said.

Garza’s primary focus will be addressing some of the casualties of last year’s record homicide rate. When asked about specific areas such as the blocks surrounding the Fast Stop at Independence Avenue and Bales that saw three homicides in 2023,  Garza was quick to note the level of community engagement on a single issue, referring to last week’s public meeting on the possible placement of a low barrier shelter in Northeast.

That meeting drew close to 200 people, something not lost on Garza. “That was a diverse room,” Garza said. “People who’ve lived there forty years sitting next to people who just moved in, all equally engaged on a single issue. That was great.”

Garza also noted that the area around that particular Fast Stop has long been an area where people congregate and are involved in any one of a number of less than legal pursuits. “I think it’s incumbent on not only the community to keep calling us but proactively, we need to be there,” he said. “We need to know who’s there and why they’re there and if they’re up to no good, we need to hold them accountable,” Garza stated.

Garza will be making the rounds to the different neighborhood associations to introduce himself over the next few months and looks forward to being back in Northeast.