KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A key state lawmaker from Parkville called a plan to reallocate more than $40 million of the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department budget "extremely disappointing."
Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who represents Buchanan and Platte counties, said the plan to put the money toward a new community services and crime prevention fund is "defunding the police."
Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas, who presented the plan at a news conference Thursday morning before the city council approved it that afternoon, had a different take.
"This is not defunding the police," Lucas said. "What this is is actually increasing accountability for the first time in 80 years; $47 million is not actually a lot if you compare it to the full police budget and the full budget of Kansas City."
Though Luetkemeyer said there is a place for the community services fund, it should not take away from the police department's budget. He also believes the two ordinances city council passed to make the changes to the KCPD budget will have a negative effect on public safety.
"The city is going to be less safe," he said.
Last September, KCPD faced the possibility of a $26 million budget cut due to a COVID-19 pandemic-related revenue shortfall as all city agencies were asked to cut 11% from their budgets.
KCPD Chief Rick Smith said at that time that because 90% of KCPD's budget goes to personnel, potentially hundreds of officers could have been laid off at a time when there was no recruiting class to replace them. Shutting down a KCPD station also was on the table.
Lucas and Smith spoke about those concerns in September.
"I do not support cutting officers. I do not support closing a station," Lucas said at the time, "and I think that there are better ways that we can make sure that we continue to deliver necessary services in Kansas City."
Smith said in September that there is "no way" the department would be able to make the requested cuts without eliminating personnel.
In September, there were 1,331 sworn KCPD officers. According to KCPD, that number is expected to drop below 1,240 by the end of the month.
However in comments Thursday, Lucas cited last year's Operation Legend initiative to remove violent criminals from the streets. He indicated increasing the number of police officers isn't the solution to Kansas City's crime problem.
"The federal government sent hundreds of federal agents to Kansas City, and we still broke a homicide record," Lucas said.
Still, Luetkemeyer said taking money away from the police department when "we have the sixth most-dangerous city" in the country, according to FBI statistics, is "wrong headed."
"I think it's going to be a huge mistake if the city goes down this road," Luetkemeyer said.
He also said if the city defunds KCPD, state lawmakers will take action next year.
Luetkemeyer also sponsored a bill to drop the residency requirement for police departments to entice officers in large metro departments like KCPD to stay.