KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners met today for the first time since the city council voted last week to reallocate millions of dollars of police funding.
It’s a move the mayor and supporters say adds accountability to the department and actually increases their budget by $3 million. Those opposed to recently passed ordinances say this is effectively defunding the police by upwards of $42 million.
What happened at the meeting Monday is unclear. The meeting was held via teleconference, with the Mayor Quinton Lucas on the phone in the normal meeting room at Kansas City Police headquarters.
The meeting immediately went into closed session to discuss “potential litigation matters.” Lucas, who is a member of the police board, objected to making the meeting private.
Lucas did confirm the discussion had to do with the city council’s move last week.
The council voted 9-4 to reallocate nearly $45 million of KCPD funds to a new “community services and prevention fund.”
The city manager will negotiate with police officials over how the money is spent, with an emphasis on community engagement, prevention, mental health services and other public services.
The mayor says this does not mean those funds are up for grabs by outside community organizations. It simply gives the council a way to better supervise how the department spends its money.
“I think we all have an interest in the same thing: solving crimes, making some sort of change, trans-generational change. I think what you saw the city council pass last week was the first time in about 80 years where the city has stepped up and said, ‘We want to take a more active role in how we keep this community safe.’ I think that is lawful. I think it’s appropriate. I think it’s what the people of Kansas City have wanted time and time again,” Lucas said.
The KCPD is controlled by the state through an appointed board of commissioners.
Lucas believes the change in funding allocation is a way for taxpayers in Kansas City to have a say in public safety through their elected public officials.
“Every year at budget time, you hear people say, ‘How do we make sure we have our community policing officers? How do we have neighborhood officers? How do we have more crisis intervention team officers?’ It shouldn’t be something we’re begging for. It should be something where at least the taxpayer voice, through its elected officials, has a chance to be heard. I think it’s fair to say that has not happened yet. I think the ordinance passed last week is a step in that direction,” Lucas said.
Critics still argue the change will lead to a less safe city. The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police posted the following statement on Facebook Monday:
“Bold move by some to intentionally defund the Kansas City Police Department by 54 million dollars in just three weeks. The equivalent of 450 positions will need to be cut if that decision isn’t reversed.
Businesses are looking to find a place to settle and people are searching for a place to raise families. In the middle of all of that Kansas City is one of the most violent in the country and 9 people voted to strip 54 million from a budget needed to protect our citizens.
Defunding police departments has become popular in major cities, but so has rising violent crime and citizens moving out of those cities. Most cities in our metro are growing and hiring officers, on the other hand Kansas City chose to ignore tax payers’ needs. In a world where defunding polls at about 12 percent, ignoring 88 percent of the rest of the city can’t be good for re-elections.”
Lucas said the FOP’s claims are simply not true. He said the department is fully funded until January 2022 and no money has been cut from the department.
“That’s entirely false; they’re just trying to scare people,” Lucas said.
The mayor also said claims that councilmembers in the Northland were not consulted about the change are false.
Lucas said the city council is fully prepared for any potential litigation on the matter.
Right now, no lawsuits are filed. But, Governor Mike Parson, state lawmakers and even some members of the Kansas City police board have hinted at litigation or even a special state legislative session to stop the change from happening.
“I recognize that maybe there will be people that sometimes don’t like legislation and when they’re angry, they sue. That being said, city council followed the rules,” Lucas said.
Captain Leslie Foreman, spokesperson for the KCPD, said Chief Rick Smith is not ready to comment on the matter at the moment.
“We were all caught off guard. So, it was information that the chief did not have previously. And I think that’s part of the reason why, right now, why there is a delay in commenting. We’re just trying to get our bearings together and figure out what’s going on and what we can do to move forward and make this successful,” Foreman said.