City Council approves changes to police funding

File Photo

By Nikki Lansford and Abby Hoover

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas successfully passed two ordinances aimed at shifting the control of funding to the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) just hours after they were introduced with the support of eight council members.

Lucas introduced two pieces of legislation Thursday morning that he said will increase accountability for the KCPD, enhance police-community relations and make Kansas City safer.

The two ordinances, 210466 and 210468, were introduced and passed at Thursday’s City Council meeting without being sent to committee, and without public comment.

They were co-sponsored by Third District at-Large Council member Brandon Ellington, Third District Council member Melissa Robinson, Fourth District at-Large Council member Katheryn Shields, Fourth District Council member Eric Bunch, Fifth District at-Large Council member Lee Barnes, Jr., Fifth District Council member Ryana Parks-Shaw, Sixth District at-Large Council member Andrea Bough, and Sixth District Council member Kevin McManus, who all voted in favor.

The ordinances give more accountability to the people of Kansas City with a focus on preventing and intervening in violent crime, which Lucas said is the key to building a safer city.

“The Kansas City Police Department is vital in this work, but we also need them to engage with us and our community on new solutions to a generational problem,” Lucas said. “The ordinances I am introducing today with the co-sponsorship of my colleagues reflect the mandate to Kansas City’s elected officials to decrease violent crime, to decrease negative police-community interactions, to decrease wasteful spending and instead to increase our neighborhoods’ safety and collaboration.”

They amend the Kansas City FY21-22 Budget to fund KCPD to the 20% minimum of Kansas City’s general revenue required by the Missouri Legislature, about $150 million. The FY21-22 Budget currently funds KCPD at 25.8% of the City’s general revenue, totaling $187,368,097, excluding pension of $42,783,771.

The ordinances reallocate the remainder of the previously-allocated KCPD budget to a new Community Services and Prevention Fund and directs the City Manager to enter into a contract with the Board of Police Commissioners to provide certain community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention, and other public services, including as necessary providing for an additional recruiting class to facilitate the provision of community services.

Kansas City has similar contracts with a number of governmental entities including the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City (EDCKC), Visit KC, and KCPD itself in connection with parking enforcement.

The ordinances provide an additional $3 million to KCPD for a recruiting class to support prevention, intervention, and community services in a contract with the City. Lucas reiterated that the legislation does not “defund” the City’s police department, rather shifting control of the funding to the City.

The vote comes less than a week after the Missouri Legislature passed a police reform bill that prohibits efforts to defund police and removes the residency requirement for KCPD officers to live within city limits. Kansas City has until the bill is signed by Gov. Mike Parson to make changes to funding.

KCPD Chief Rick Smith was out of town when the ordinances were introduced and passed. He and the four Northland council members say they weren’t informed of the ordinances before the mayor announced their introduction Thursday morning.

“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,” KCPD Chief Rick Smith said in a statement released after the press conference. “The Mayor and other sponsoring council members have not previously mentioned this proposal, so our discussion about it are just beginning.”

The council members who planned to vote “no” held a press conference Thursday ahead of the Council’s Business Session.

First District Council member Heather Hall, First District at-Large Council member Kevin O’Neill, Second District at-Large Council member Teresa Loar and Second District Council member Dan Fowler voiced their distaste for the ordinances. They shared their frustration with being the only members to learn about the new legislation the day it will be introduced at the City Council meeting.

“You cannot take away $47 million dollars out of a budget and expect the city to police like we’re supposed to police,” O’Neill said. “That’s my major concern.” 

Hall said the ordinances would make budget cuts to amenities that predominantly help the urban center of the City, and she “doesn’t understand why we want to hurt the people in the most vulnerable districts in our city.”

Fowler believes that the new pieces of legislation will result in the reduction of police staff and therefore negatively impact urban core neighborhoods.

Lucas is expected to sign the ordinances today or early next week. Ten days after he does, the new ordinances will go into effect, and the city manager will begin contract negotiations with the police board.

The four council members who voted against, police advocates and others are expected to challenge Lucas’ swift action on the ordinances.

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