Born and raised in New Orleans, Martin Cobbinah’s life trajectory changed at 14.
His father worked for Universal Life Insurance Company, one of the largest black-owned insurance companies at the time, and transferred to Kansas City.
“His office was near 28th and Prospect,” Cobbinah pointed out. “As a teenager, I’d come down and visit him. This area’s been familiar to me because I was hanging out in his office.”
Just a block from his dad’s old work site, Cobbinah is now the new Major at East Patrol Division (where he was once a captain). To him, nothing trumps the well-being of the relationship between his officers and the community they serve. It’s a partnership he’s intent on fostering.
“I want the community to come outside and see us,” Cobbinah said. “I tell my officers to stop parking behind a building to write your report or eat your lunch. Sit at the end of the block and let people see you. So if you’re driving down the street or sitting on the block, they see you, and you see them. They want us there.”
Cobbinah’s journey to major at East Patrol began in 1990 when he was accepted into the police academy. He admits he knew nothing about policing then, but he had a child on the way and was tired of his fast food job.
A classified ad in the newspaper grabbed his attention, but even then KCPD almost never happened.
“I was heading to the Naval recruiter’s office to sign my paperwork to join the Navy,” Cobbinah recalled. “I stopped off at the mailbox on the way, and in there was my acceptance letter into the police academy. I had a decision to make. The police department won out. They were the first ones to say yes.”
The path to major, Cobbinah believes, began with a temporary assignment in the Vice Unit. Recognized for his work there, Cobbinah was assigned as an undercover officer in the Street Narcotics Unit where, he says, he was mentored and shown leadership traits.
Since then, Cobbinah has held varied assignments ranging from the Police Athletic League (PAL), the most challenging and rewarding phase of his career, to liaison to the City.
Drawing on his experiences and the opportunity to lead East Patrol, Cobbinah keeps it simple.
“I want to be seen as approachable,” Cobbinah said. “If I can’t direct the solution, I should be able to direct them to someone who can. Our goal is to provide the resources to get problems resolved as best we can.”