The Board of Police Commissioners considered two options to cut $10.6 million from the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) budget Tuesday.
On June 5, Interim Director Earnest Rouse, the acting City Manager, sent a letter to department directors requesting they participate in an exercise to reduce budgets by 4.5%.
Reasons for the request include the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent loss of tax revenue, which Mayor Quinton Lucas estimated at 10% at Tuesday’s meeting.
Since then, the department’s budget unit has been working with the city budget unit on specifics.
The current budget for KCPD is $242,052,964, which would be reduced to $231,160,581, Deputy Chief Karen True from the Executive Services Bureau told the board.
“If we are saying we need to reduce our budget by those calculations, by $10.6 million, that equates to 212 people,” True said.
It could be any combination of law enforcement officers or civilian staff. Current vacancies for officers are at 54, and civilian vacancies are at 89, leaving 123 positions that would have to be eliminated through attrition, retirement, layoffs and furloughs, or people quitting, True said.
True laid out two scenarios at Tuesday’s BOPC meeting.
The first option is to trim staff at all patrol stations. The department has outlined which stations the positions would be eliminated from, including 40 civilian positions.
The second option would be to “cut in half” one of the larger patrol divisions: Center, East or Metro Patrol.
“I’m very concerned about the impact this is going to have on our ability to provide the services to this city that it needs,” Commission President Don Wagner said.
True said 86.5% of the department’s budget is for personnel costs, which had already been assessed for salary savings in this budget year by the city and the department.
“The only way we can significantly reduce our budget by $10 million is by eliminating positions or not hiring, not filling our vacancies,” she said.
Additionally, upcoming police academy classes have been cancelled, meaning no new officers will be hired for the rest of the year, Chief of Police Rick Smith said.
“They can’t ask us to do more with less, so we’re talking about de-escalation training and all those things and do it with $10 million less,” Commission Vice President Mark Tolbert said. “That’s just not fair and not compatible.”
Lucas said all of the departments will present the results of the exercise to the City Council on June 25.
The budget cuts come as the department has scheduled recent overtime to handle protests on the Plaza and around the city.
“I know the highlights and the news films are constantly capturing what is happening on the Plaza in the last week, but what it hasn’t captured is our social workers, our community interaction officers, all our youth programs that we’ve been involved in has not gotten any attention,” Smith said.
The June 16 BOPC meeting was held in-person with commissioners conferenced in, but the public was barred from attendance to “prevent the spread of COVID-19.” It was live-streamed on the department’s Facebook page and on the city’s YouTube channel.
Public comment was taken by email prior to the meeting. The board received 268 public comments by 8:30 Tuesday morning.
Of those comments, 54 comments were on the ban of choke holds, strangle holds and knee holds. Another 66 comments support the 8 Can’t Wait Campaign. An additional 41 called for the termination of Chief Smith. Three commenters expressed thanks for KCPD’s professionalism.
Smith said he does not consider KCPD to be in a “military posture” over a “protect and serve posture,” adding the majority of the department’s time is spent helping, not enforcing.
Forty-one comments were regarding defunding the police and demanding justice for Donnie Sanders, who was killed by an anonymous KCPD officer in March 2020.
Additional actions from the board, such as terminating the officers involved in assaulting peaceful protesters, banning the department’s use of pepper spray and tear gas, divesting and defunding the police department were submitted by 13 residents.
Comments regarding the implementation of body cameras for all officers were submitted by four residents, as well as the department’s use of force policy.
There were an additional 42 miscellaneous comments on various topics like requests for meeting info, video footage of force used at protests, demands for reconstruction of PD, demilitarization of KCPD, local versus state control of the department, and questions pertaining to board operations.