KANSAS CITY, Mo — A Jackson County judge ruled Tuesday that Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas and the KCMO City Council violated Missouri state law in passing two ordinances last spring that changed appropriations for the city's police budget.
Judge Patrick W. Campbell ruled that two ordinances the city passed in May changed the “authorized expenditures” in violation of state law, impermissibly altered budget allocations and earmarked money “in a manner not ‘directed’ by Chapter 84,” the Missouri state law that governs the Kansas City Police Department's operations.
Those violations constitute an attempt by the city to usurp the Board of Police Commissioners’ “exclusive management and control” of the police department as stipulated by state law.
“The mayor and a majority of Council have proven consistently our commitment to creating safer neighborhoods and saving lives by addressing all causes of crime, and shown our willingness to take bold action to achieve such a goal," Lucas said in a statement from his office. "That work continues. The decision announced by the Court today has provided a pathway forward for the City to require the Kansas City Police Department to engage in discussions related to crime prevention throughout future budget cycles, should the Department seek to receive funds in excess of 20 percent of the City’s General Fund Revenue."
The KCPD Board of Police Commissioners filed a lawsuit in May after the city passed City Ordinances 210466 and 210468, which redirected more than $45 million from the KCPD budget to a fund controlled by City Manager Brian Platt.
Campbell wrote that such action after the budget had already been approved violates state law.
While Campbell agreed that the city has “an opportunity to exercise discretion and not appropriate funds for KCPD ‘in excess of one-fifth of the general revenue fund’” in any given year under state law, he ruled that the city’s authority above and beyond that 20% threshold required by state law is limited to the appropriations process.
“Once appropriated by the City, all appropriations provided in excess of one-fifth of the general revenue fund become mandatory upon the Board adopting and certifying the KCPD budget.” Campbell wrote.
But it also provides an opportunity for the city to negotiate with KCPD in future budget years.
Future budget discussion, Lucas predicted will be "negotiated and focused squarely on preventing violent crime in our community," he said. "Discussions about next year’s budget have already started. I will continue working with the City and Department leadership to ensure every taxpayer funded entity in our City shares a role in working to prevent violent crime and create better outcomes for all people in all of our neighborhoods."
For the 2021-22 fiscal year, barring intervention from a higher court, that means the city must return the money it withheld in hopes of diverting funds to more community-focused police programs.
“Placing the $45,282,444 in a fund for community engagement services under the requisitioning authority of the City Manager after the Board approved the KCPD budget on April 27, 2021, is an attempt by the City to exert management and control of KCPD as prohibited by Chapter 84," Campbell wrote.
Campbell's ruling compels the city to honor the budget agreed to in late April, which drew appreciation from KCPD officials.
"KCPD engages in the budget process six months ahead of when the budget year begins," the police department said in a statement to KSHB 41 News. "The police department puts a great deal of effort into this process as does the city. This budget process directly affects not only the police department and the city, but the members in our community. We appreciate the court recognized the validity of the 2020-2021 budget process."
Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon said in a statement he hopes the city and police board can work together to hire and retain more officers.
"Judge Campbell’s decision of today finding that the City violated state law in defunding the police department does little to repair the damage the City’s misguided decision has had on KCPD and our members’ morale," Lemon said in the statement. "KCPD has seen a record number of resignations and retirements in 2021. This year more than 100 officers have resigned or retired and 35 more will leave this year, numbers that represent nearly double the total number of resignations and retirements than any other year in KCPD history," he said in the statement.
"It is the FOP’s sincere hope the City and the BOPC can put this unfortunate situation behind them and focus their efforts, instead, on finding ways to recruit and retain officers. If we revisit this terrible situation again next year, the Department will not be able to withstand its effects and the results will be catastrophic for public safety in Kansas City."
The city may appeal the ruling, Lucas said in a statement.
He said he plans to continue to press the Board of Commissioners "to increase staffing of law enforcement based on the Department’s current fiscal year budgeting of 1,413 law enforcement positions, with only roughly 1,200 positions filled today," Lucas said in a statement. "Council has supported the positions and there is no longer any excuse to be understaffed.”