vito mazzata kansas city police department

By Michael Bushnell

On Sunday morning, February 27, 2022, Kansas City, MO., Police Officer Vito Mazzara, tragically took his own life.

Those familiar with East Patrol and the Badges for Basics program rolled out by Mazzara and Officer Danielle Williams know the community-based outreach effort connected with people who lived on the fringe, often between homelessness and couch-surfing.

In a July, 2019 Issue of KCPD’s Informant newsletter, Mazzara said people often asked him during these outreach events, “Why are you here?”

“I tell them it’s because right now there’s violence here, and I don’t want you to be afraid to be here,” Mazzara said in an interview. “I’m showing you it’s okay to be here.”

We first met Officer Mazzara in 2011 when The Northeast News covered the new KCPD Foot Patrols on Independence Avenue. Vito, a recent graduate of the police academy, was a fresh-faced 25-year-old kid who wanted to make a difference. He and fellow beat officers Jonathan Cook and John King volunteered for a pilot program that brought foot patrols back to the Avenue.

“When we’re not here and to know we’re still making a difference,” Mazzara hoped for his legacy.

We caught up with Vito again in 2017 when he was working with the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID). Officer Mazzara developed a number of the programs used to this day by the Titan Security officers who work for the Independence Avenue CID. 

Mazzara and the Titan Security officers handled more than 1,000 incidents over a roughly six-month period, with Mazzara developing the Summons for Citation program, allowing Titan Officers to make a running list of criminal nuisance violations.

A couple years later on a warm April afternoon in 2019, Officers Mazzara and Williams, Captain Jeff Hughley, along with then-KCPD East Patrol Social Worker Trena Miller, set up shop at the corner of Belmont and St. John avenues to give away a small mountain of personal hygiene products as part of the Badges for Basics program. Once again, making a difference and community took center stage for Officer Vito Mazzara.

About a month later, in May of 2019, The Northeast News published a tattoo issue, a fun side trip into the world of tattoo artists and the people who crave the buzz of the ink and the needle. Once again, Officer Vito Mazzara was front and center. Mazzara told us he only has two tattoos, but they’re all interconnected and at least in May of 2019, they covered some 80% of his body. 

“I love the sessions,” Mazzara said. “It all started with my kids and my parents and they are all represented in the tattoos I have. After going through the experiences of the tattoos and the experiences I had on the police department, those tattoos became my time where I decompressed. Police officers need that time to just sit and be open with an artist. We need that outlet and tattoos are mine.”

In June of 2020, Officer Mazzara led a small army of relief efforts at the Gabriel Towers apartments at 1600 Jackson. The multi-story building had been without air conditioning for over a week. When Vito learned of this, he reached out and discovered that food was a priority for the overheated tenants seeking relief outside of the sweltering heat in the building. Vito teamed up with Center Patrol Community Interaction Officers who provided a free, catered barbecue meal and RIDE KC cooling buses for the overheated tenants. Once again, making a difference in his community.  

Officer Vito Mazzara leaves his loving wife Tessa Maria Mazzara; children Jade Victoria Mazzara, Vito Corleone Mazzara, Vincenzo “Vinny” Paul Mazzara, Isabella Marie Mazzara, and Kelly Giovanna Mazzara. He is also survived by his parents Paul and Kelly Mazzara; and two sisters, Michele Gregg and Courtney McClannahan (Mike); and his maternal grandmother Emily Hogan.

While the department does not have a dedicated mental health or crisis hotline for employees, they do have a Wellness Unit, police chaplains, an Employee Assistance Program and peer support through the Fraternal Order of Police.