Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced a legislative package today that he said would increase accountability for the Kansas City Police Department, enhance police-community relations and prevent violent crime.
“Doing the same thing we’ve been doing for generations has sadly not worked for the thousands of Kansas City families impacted by violent crime,” said Lucas.
The legislative package will reallocate a portion of KCPD’s funding to community programs in an effort to address the root causes of violent crime, Lucas said.
Currently, the Missouri Legislature requires the city to allocate at least 20% of their total budget to the police department, which equals about $153 million. It’s also required to fund about $40 million in pension obligations for the department. Combined, the city was required to allocate at least $193 million to KCPD, but last year’s total budget exceeded that amount by $45 million, which Lucas wants to use to fund a new program to help prevent violent crime.
Under the proposed legislation, the $45 million would be reallocated to a new Community Services and Prevention Fund within KCPD, which the mayor said will provide community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention and other public service programs.
The proposed legislation also allows the city manager to enter an agreement with the Board of Police Commissioners for KCPD to provide community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention and other public services to help prevent violent crime. An additional $3 million provided through the fund would also provide a recruiting class to staff and facilitate the programs.
The ordinances will be heard at the Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee meeting next week, which will reveal more details about how the program might operate.
The Missouri Legislature passed a bill this session that allows law enforcement agencies to sue the city if the city makes cuts that exceed 12% to their budget. The policy was introduced to counter activists’ calls to “defund the police.”
Lucas said he does not see this move as a cut, nor defunding the police, but a creative new way for KCPD to focus on preventing violent crime instead of using traditional models that he says are not working.
“I’ve laid out an approach that gives an opportunity for the police budget to be exactly the same, if not slightly increased. All they have to do is work with us,” Lucas said, adding that the funding would stay within the department, but specifically be used for community services.
“What I would say to anyone who thinks that this is in some way legally questionable, I actually welcome a legal challenge because that would allow us to articulate some of our own concerns about the bizarre setup that we have in Kansas City,” Lucas said, referring to KCPD’s current state control.
KCPD Chief Rick Smith released a statement saying that Lucas and the other council members had not mentioned the proposed ordinances to him.
“I am disheartened Mayor Lucas and the other sponsoring council members did not reach out to the Police Department prior to today’s press conference to notify us of such a policy shift,” Smith said.
There are seven other council members who are co-sponsors of the ordinances, but since KCPD is still under state control, the Board of Police Commissioners will make the final decision. Co-sponsors include councilman Brandon Ellington, councilwoman Melissa Robinson, councilwoman Katheryn Shields, councilman Eric Bunch, councilman Lee Barnes, councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, councilwoman Andrea Bough and councilman Kevin McManus.
“This is a refreshing change of course,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City and member of the Urban Council. “The Urban Council and our Black Rainbow and Operation Liberation allies commend Mayor Lucas and the council for taking this bold step to ensure that public safety tax dollars are used to directly address the root causes of violent crime and to make our community safer.”
“It is time that KCPD be held to account for their inefficient and ineffective expenditures, which have failed to substantively address the proliferation of violent crime in our community,” Grant said.
Once the bill passes city council, the ball is in the Board of Police Commissioner’s court.