Missouri voters force Kansas City to raise KCPD spending

FILE — Kansas City Police Department cruiser and motorcycle
FILE — Kansas City Police Department cruiser and motorcycle(KCPD)
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 10:53 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri voters have passed a constitutional amendment that will require Kansas City to spend a larger percentage of its general revenue on the police department.

The amendment requires the city to spend 25% of general revenue on police, up from the current 20% requirement.

Kansas City is the only city in Missouri — and one of the largest cities in the U.S. —- that does not have local control of its police department. Instead, a state board oversees the department’s operations, including its budget.

State lawmakers passed a law this year to require the budget increase but feared it would violate the constitution’s unfunded mandate provision. The proposed amendment is meant to resolve any potential conflict.

The amendment was in response to an unsuccessful attempt in 2021 by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and other city leaders to divert a portion of the police department’s budget to social service and crime prevention programs.

GOP lawmakers in Jefferson City said the effort was a move to “defund” the police in a city with a high rate of violent crime. City leaders deny that charge and noted that the police department is generally funded above the 20% threshold.

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce had said the proposal created a dangerous exception to state constitutional prohibitions on unfunded mandates for cities.

State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican who represents counties in Kansas City’s suburbs, said he sponsored the legislation to stand with law enforcement during a time of “radical attempts across the country by city councils to defund the police.”

Lucas and civil rights leaders said the amendment was a power grab by GOP lawmakers to cement control over a mostly Democratic city with a large Black population. They say the police are well funded, and Amendment 4 won’t improve public safety.

Lucas and a civil rights activist have sued over the proposals. Those lawsuits are pending in court.