Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker on Monday announced that she has selected Vince Ortega as the new director of Jackson County COMBAT.

“Vince Ortega is highly qualified to take on this significant task of directing COMBAT into the future,” Baker said.

Baker said Ortega, as deputy director, has already begun to connect COMBAT more with the community, finding new partners in neighborhoods that needed more service to reduce violence and illegal drugs. Ortega used data to identify and analyze crime hot spots in Jackson County. Then he engaged partners, including school districts and apartment complex management, to work in coordination in those neighborhoods.

Ortega, who has served nine years as deputy director of COMBAT, said he wants to expand this approach.

“I’ve learned a great deal in my nine years at COMBAT that reducing crime takes a real partnership that goes far beyond law enforcement,” Ortega said. “Building community involvement in this effort will be a important key to success.”

Previously, he served for 30 years in the Kansas City Police Department before he retired in 2006 as Deputy Chief. He also served as Executive Officer to the Chief of Police and the major over the Violent Crimes Division.

Baker thanked community leaders who served on a COMBAT Director Nominating Committee, which conducted this month interviews of candidates. The COMBAT director nominating committee: Legislators Scott Burnett and Alfred Jordan; Legislator-elect Jalen Anderson; former COMBAT director Stacey Daniels-Young; Jim Witteman, COMBAT Commission chair; Kamisha Stanton, Kansas City’s violence program coordinator; and Graciela Couchonnal, vice president of programs at the Healthcare Foundation of Greater-Kansas City.

Baker also thanked David Renz and his staff at the Midwest Center for Non-profit Leadership at UMKC, for facilitating this process of selecting a new COMBAT director.

The nominating committee forwarded three candidates to Baker’s office. And Baker interviewed each candidate last week.

Voters first approved the COMBAT program in 1989. They simply wanted to make their streets safer and free of the violence and other problems associated with illegal drugs. Since then, COMBAT’s mission was expanded to directly take on violence.

“Our community today needs more than ever for COMBAT to effectively reduce the disastrous impacts of illegal drugs and violence,” Baker said. “We must set as a goal making COMBAT an even more valuable community resource.”