KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Police staffing is the center of discussion over funding for the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department as the department is proposing a budget that is 6% higher than the last fiscal year, an increase of more than $16 million.
On Wednesday, the Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) convened to discuss the proposed budget. A majority of the talks centered around salaries to make sure the department becomes competitive in hiring new officers and keeping the current ones.
"We think that in order to meet the needs of this city, that there has to be an investment in this police department," KCPD Chief Rick Smith said.
It's why KCPD is asking for a $272 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
This proposal is happening as the department continues to lose members faster than they are hiring new ones.
The department has identified that having just over 1,400 officers would be the right amount to protect and serve KCMO. Right now, they're under 1,200.
"I would like us to be at the most competitive level," Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said.
The BOPC told KCPD top brass that salaries need to become a priority after learning that they're currently used to cover costs like legal fees.
"We should start with are pay raises, funding for whatever number we think is actually realistic. And then we say that will not be moved," Lucas said. "And then from there, we figure out, if we'll have to adjust later, we'll have to look to any number of other things."
According to KCPD leaders, the proposed budget has set aside at least $128 million that would get them just over 1,400 officers by the end of 2023.
It would also give a 5% raise to those at the top and a "step increase" for rank-and-file officers.
They're also looking to add another $4.7 million to increase the starting salary in order to attract new officers.
"That's going to be incumbent upon every member of this police department to recruit everybody in the community to do that job. You know, we're also going to work our butts off, to try to get people from other police departments," Sgt. Brad Lemon, president of Kansas City Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 99, said.
"And it'll always be bureaucracies you got to take care of your people first and the comparison I made is absolutely right over in public works if we don't have enough people to drive the snowplows what's the use of a new snowplows. We need to make sure we have enough people to police the city," Lucas said.
Although the budget is due to the city by Friday, the police department is asking for an extension to rework the numbers following Wednesday's meeting.
The BOPC plans to meet again via teleconference on Monday before the budget goes to City Hall.