KANSAS CITY, Mo — A Jackson County judge ruled on Tuesday that Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas and the City Council violated Missouri state law in passing two ordinances last spring.
They changed appropriations for the city’s police budget. According to the judge, it is illegal for the city to alter the budget following a final decision. The judge also stated those violations are an attempt by the city to take away the legally-protected control of the Board of Police Commissioners.
The ordinances would have taken more than $40 million from the Kansas City Police Department and invested it in a community services prevention fund.
It's something that caused controversy. Some council members did not support the move by Lucas, but would be open to larger budget conversations regarding the police.
However, it was something Ron Hunt with the Blue Hills Neighborhood Association wanted to see.
“All the police department is talking about is more recruitment — put more officers,” Hunt said. “How is that going to change the quality of my life?”
Hunt is asking the City Council to rethink policing and to put more taxpayer money toward programs aimed at preventing future violence.
“You got to have regular common people at the table, because we know the issues in our neighborhood,” Hunt said. “Mental health, drug and alcohol treatment programs, domestic violence, those are the things that we would like to see our money go to.”
Kansas City has seen three triple-homicide investigations in the span of four days. Hunt believes the city needs to address the root causes of violence.
“The cycle of violence continues, we are bringing up traumatized kids,” Hunt said.
Meanwhile, Councilman Dan Fowler said hiring more police officers will not solve all crimes in the city, but it is necessary and helpful.
“I think it's part of the root of the issue. I know in my own jurisdiction north of the river, we are starved for police protection,” Fowler said.
Fowler, who voted against the reallocation of police funding last spring, is ready to negotiate with the City Council as well as the Board of Police Commissioners to find creative solutions around the budget.
Councilwoman Heather Hall, who also voted against the initial ordinances, said 20% of the general fund is not enough for city police operations. Hall said she would like to see a budget for how the reallocation of $42 million would be spent toward community policing, because she believes that it is already taking place.
“We have social workers that work with the police department, we have mental health organizations, we have amazing people in the private sector who already do it well," Hall said. "I would question whether the people on the city council are equipped to do mental health counseling better than the people who are already out there doing it.”
Both Fowler and Hall said the Lucas should have consulted the council first and a public hearing should have been held for the taxpayers as well.
“I believe that after a 20-day period, when the entire City Council voted unanimously for the police budget and then 20 days later, they take away $22 million — that’s not acceptable,” Hall said. “I was shocked that he would do something so surreptitious without talking to all of the council people.”
Lucas said in a statement the city may appeal the ruling, which could result in the funds eventually being diverted from KCPD.