KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Two days after Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced a bold and controversial proposal to make some of the police department's funds first flow through the city, it remains a topic being debated regardless of background, ethnicity or even geography.
Still making the rounds to explain the plan---which the City Council passed Thursday afternoon---Lucas went through what have become his usual points on the matter, in a radio interview on Saturday morning:
- That the move, he says, does not actually take $42 million money away from the police---It puts the money into a special fund that the police can still access, as long as they work out specific contracts with the city manager for that money. This amounts to an accountability measure with the department, he says.
- That Kansas City remains the only major city that does not directly control its own police department. Instead, it is controlled by a state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners.
- That this move is ultimately one of safety and accountability for a city that has seen growing, record homicide numbers in recent years.
But the mayor also shared in his interview on KPRT something that has taken a backseat in much of the media and public coverage over the past few days: How he sees race as a poignant hingepoint in the conversation.
The mayor said his passion for pushing change through this particular method comes directly from his experiences as a black politician and a black man living in Kansas City, and that he's seeing an awful lot of Republicans and white faces opposing the new police budget plan, but not much opposition from regular Kansas Citians, including many black faces in Kansas City who he says are desperate for a change.
"My own mother, who probably watches the local news, is saying, 'Well, why are they saying the whole city council was left out.' I'm like, 'No, the whole city council voted. The people who lost are the ones getting all the play right now,'" Lucas said. "And maybe that's conflict. Maybe that's because they don't actually want to say that we can trust a---well, I'll just say it---a black mayor, blacks on the city council, progressives on the city council, progressive whites, in terms of what we're looking to do."
Lucas said the crux of the matter is finding a way to make a safer Kansas City. He relayed how he grows tired of going to events in East and South Kansas City---heavily black areas of the city---and having to hear people share stories about the murders of loved ones.
"I've lived at 18th and Vine for 12 years. I've had too many homicides down the street," he said. "This is the sort of thing that I think Kansas Citians want to see changed and improved."
The mayor intimated that he sees this as a small change in a system that has deeply-steeped racial roots, ones that reach back almost 150 years.
Speaking about the system keeping Kansas City from gaining a direct control over its police department, Lucas said, "It has existed, in some form or another, since 1874. So nine years after the emancipation of slaves, they created this system. And they say this is still the way we need to regulate our city, before black people could vote, before black people had almost any rights."
Lucas has stressed heavily over the past 48 hours his view that the new funding change gives more choices to Kansas Citians, putting important police decisions into the hands of city council representatives elected directly by the people of Kansas City, rather than a board appointed by the governor's office in Jefferson City.
He did the same in Saturday morning's radio appearance, framing the issue as one focused on the people, not the police department. To him, he said, this change is about giving the people of Kansas City a voice in how their police department is run, not about denigrating the men and women in uniform.
"So I think this is actually a positive moment," he said, concerning the police department. "They don't lose a dollar. In fact, they gain dollars. They get a new recruiting class. They just need to talk to the people of Kansas City."
Lucas went on, "God bless the police department. None of them will lose jobs in this plan. None of them will be harmed. They'll probably even be able to get raises in this plan."
Ultimately, the decision will be up to Kansas Citians, he said. If the city does not live up to their end of the arrangement, Lucas said he urges the people to replace him with whoever will fight for what they want done. But he made it clear he believes this is a fight he's seeking purely for the people of Kansas City.
"We're not going to waste our time. We're going to spend our time making real change in Kansas City," the mayor said.
The mayor's plan was cosponsored by eight councilmembers and has been lauded by many of the area's groups who advocate minority issues and police accountability. But the measure's emergence also came with plenty of opposition, from the Kansas City police chief, to the Fraternal Order of Police, some local legislators, the Missouri governor and even Fox News' Harris Faulkner, a former Kansas Citian herself, who went toe-to-toe with Lucas in an appearance on the network Friday morning.
Gov. Mike Parson's office likened the measure to "defunding" the police, calling it "dangerous and irresponsible."
Faulkner brought up the city's recent homicide numbers, which crescendoed to a record 178 homicides in 2020, and suggested a city that needed federal agents to come in to quell the violence---in the much-publicized Operation Legend---shouldn't be reallocating police money anywhere other than into the department's direct fund.
The Fraternal Order of Police called the move "reckless," with Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith saying he was blindsided by the measure, which seemed sudden to him and those who oppose Lucas' plan.
Some state legislators representing the area suggested a special session could be called soon in Jefferson City to fight the changes directly, and if that doesn't work, the whole situation could end up in court.
Lucas didn't mince words while addressing those possibilities during his radio appearance: "I will just say, very simply, bring it on."