KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hours after the Kansas City, Missouri, Board of Police Commissioners filed a lawsuit against the mayor and city, Mayor Quinton Lucas said it stemmed from power and not public safety. Now, BOPC President Mark Tolbert, talking exclusively with 41 Action News, said it’s not a matter of power, but of process.
41 Action News Anchor Kevin Holmes: City leaders say that money is going to be 'earmarked' for the Kansas City Police Department. And that it’s just a bit more oversight; a bit more accountability on a local level. What do you say to that?
Bishop Mark Tolbert, president of the KC Board of Police Commissioners: I said, even in the statement I released Friday, let’s start working on next year’s budget because some of the things the city and city council want to do, as the board chair, I agree with some of those things. But it’s all about process and timing.
KH: Some of those things, like what?
MT: I don’t have their sheet in front of me, but some of the things Mayor Lucas put in their request they want to do with the 42 million, I agree with that. However, there are things that a lot of people don’t know about the police department.
Tolbert said there’s a social worker at every precinct, and two community interaction officers at every precinct.
KH: What grade would you give the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department when it comes to fighting crime and all the other issues they face? A passing grade? An A? B?
MT: I’d give them an A minus.
KH: A minus. You said there are many things we don’t see as the general public. But one thing we do see – 174. At least 174 murders, a record-breaking year last year. What would the police board of commissioners do differently should they receive this $42 million?
MT: Kevin, what you need to understand is most of the problems in urban core cities in America is not a policing problem. It’s a community problem. It’s an American problem.
KH: Is there enough accountability to the taxpayers when it comes to the Kansas City Police Department?
KH: How so?
MT: When you talk about local control, there are four citizens of Kansas City who go through every policy, every dime that’s spent on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly basis.
Bishop Tolbert said the broader issue of community and the role it plays needs to be addressed.
MT: And talk with bankers, and talk with insurance companies, and jobs. You cannot heal it emotionally. It has to be a concentrated succinct effort.
KH: You say emotional. Do you think the mayor withdrawing 42 million is an emotional move? Knee jerk?
MT: Um, I think it was a plan. But I think it was emotionally driven by some of the things that’s going on now with the George Floyd murder.
KH: The Board of Police Commissioners; are you five the best stewards, or the best way to use resources to man KCPD?
MT: Kevin, that’s like saying is the city council the best form of government for Kansas City?
KH: But almost every city has a city council, and this is the only major city in the country that has a board of police commissioners to this day. There’s a little bit of a difference.
MT: There are several different formulations of how we govern our city. I think this is the best we have for now.
Budgets have been approved and amended in the past. In some cases more money has been given to KCPD in that process. Tolbert said this is different.
MT: Not by $42 million. Maybe 3 or 4, 5 or 6, but not 42. That changes the whole dynamics.
Tolbert said if these conversations about funding were to happen during the initial budget hearings, perhaps they could’ve worked something out.
So, 41 Action News asked Lucas why not have those conversations before pulling the funding?
"Last year, we were looking at budget cuts of 11% from every department," Lucas said. "The KC Board of Police Commissioners sent a final budget to the city council, not reflecting any cuts at all, so I think it’s fair to say over recent years the city council feels like their views have not been listened to time and time again. That’s why you get to a point where the speaking has to be through a budget decision.”
A hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday regarding the lawsuit. The judge could halt the funds, return everything back to the way it was or take time to think about it.