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Kansas City police board sues mayor, city over budget reform

Posted at 11:30 AM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 18:43:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners has filed suit against Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas, other city officials and KCMO itself over police budget ordinances recently passed.

The ordinances reallocate more than $42 million from the Kansas City Police Department into a new, locally administered community services fund the police department could access.

READ:Full lawsuit

Filed Friday, the lawsuit calls the measures “defunding” the police and “efforts to hinder and obstruct the Board’s management and control of the police department’s budget, in violation of state law.”

In addition to Lucas, the rest of KCMO City Council is named in the suit, along with City Manager Brian Platt and Director of Finance Tammy Queen.

In the lawsuit, the Board lines out the typical budgetary process for the police department, which is dictated by state law.

Essentially, the Board drafts a budget for KCPD, and the city is required to appropriate that amount to the police department.

State law says that appropriation can be no less than one-fifth of the city’s general revenue.

For this fiscal year, the Board requested and the city appropriated nearly $244 million to KCPD.

The lawsuit emphasized this action had Lucas’ approval.

The Board alleges any action to re-classify funds without Board approval, which they say is what happened with the recently-passed ordinances, is a violation of state law.

While the city has said the Board and KCPD will be able to “contract” with the city to obtain some of the $42 million being reallocated, the Board argues it is a violation of its control.

The lawsuit goes on to say the budget reform will “severely impact the police department’s operations and exacerbated inequalities in policing.”

The board is seeking a reversal of the ordinances and requests the court to set clear boundaries on what the council can and cannot do regarding the police budget.

Lucas spoke to the press following the lawsuit’s filing.

He said the lawsuit “reflects failure,” and puts the spotlight on the wrong thing.

“Power and politics get more attention than the toll of violence,” he said.

Lucas also said the city welcomes court review, as it sheds light on the system.

He said the city will fight the lawsuit “vigorously,” and all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.

To police officers, Lucas reiterated the city stands with them.

“We stand with you. We grieve with you. We don’t use your pain or your hard work to score political points. Every officer will have a job next week, next month and next year, and we’ve funded a new recruiting class,” Lucas said.

He said the goal of the ordinances is to take some of the power back from Jefferson City.

“Jefferson City has not worked to make us safer,” Lucas said.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has received a request for a special session about the KCPD funding issue from State Rep. Doug Richey of Excelsior Springs.

He has not made a decision about that session, according to a MissouriNet reporter.

Board president Mark Tolbert issued the following statement on behalf of the commissioners:

"While I understand the frustration of the Mayor, the City Council and some citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, I also understand that we must abide by the laws enacted by our Missouri Legislature.

In March 2021, the City appropriated funds for the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department’s operating expenses for the year. An unexpected $42 million change to our budget risks a disruption in services to our citizens.

I ask that the Mayor and the City Council withdraw the two ordinances at issue. Otherwise, the Board of Police Commissioners will be forced to continue pursuing injunctive relief in order to fulfill our duties as outlined by the Missouri Legislature.

The Board of Police Commissioners stands ready to negotiate next year’s budget, and we hope to continue dialogue with the Mayor, the City Council and other stakeholders. Our goal is to work together to strengthen and improve the services we provide to the diverse population of Kansas City, Missouri."

The attorney who filed the suit Friday told 41 Action News he believe a court hearing is likely next week.

The judge could take a few different courses of action, including issuing a temporary restraining order stopping the withdrawal of the funds, issuing a writ, which would constitute a permanent reversal of the ordinances, or take the matter under advisement.

The judge could issue the restraining order and take the matter under advisement, too.