Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has introduced two pieces of legislation to increase accountability for the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD), to enhance police-community relations, and to make Kansas City safer.
Co-sponsors include 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.
“Since the 1980s, when I was born, there have been 4,467 murders in Kansas City—nearly double the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan in 2001,” Lucas said. “Every single life we’ve lost to violent crime is a life lost too soon—and it was preventable. Doing the same thing we’ve been doing for generations—blank checks to the Police Department that get larger and larger each year without a prevention focus—has sadly not worked for the thousands of Kansas City families impacted by violent crime. We can’t just stand by a single day longer. Today, we are announcing a new course of action because we have to do better. We have to save lives.”
The ordinances would 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.”
The ordinances would amend the Kansas City FY21-22 Budget to fund KCPD to the 20% minimum of Kansas City’s general revenue compelled by the Missouri Legislature.
The ordinances also 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.
“This is a refreshing change of course,” said Gwen Grant, President and CEO of the Urban League of 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 the 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.”
The ordinances, which were introduced in today’s City Council meeting, also provide an additional $3 million for a recruiting class to support prevention, intervention, and community services in a contract with the City.
Council members who plan to vote “no” on the ordinances held a press conference at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 20.
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 are the only members of council not co-sponsoring them.
“I want you all to know I learned about these for the first time between about 11:45 a.m. to noon today,” Fowler said.
He, along with the other council members present at the conference, 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.
“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.”
This article will be updated as new information becomes available.
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