KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At Tuesday’s police commission board meeting, Deputy Chief Sharon Laningham announced that KC police officers have written a lot more traffic tickets than this time last year.
One of components behind the trend is a police chief who is energizing officers in a new way.
The days of pulling up into a no parking zone or getting away with other traffic violations are coming to an end in Kansas City. That's not only good for public safety but also for city revenue.
“Year to date in 2018, we have written 300 more tickets than year to date 2017,” Laningham said. “When I saw those stats, I was excited about it.”
In the last few years, Kansas City police have been writing less than half of the traffic citations compared to normal, which means less revenue to the city.
“It is an impact on the budge, but it is less than 1 percent on a $1.6 billion budget,” said KC Communications Manager Chris Hernandez.
Hernandez said where the volume of traffic tickets has the most impact is across the street from City Hall.
“In municipal court, there are specialty courts who get some funding directly from court revenues,” Hernandez said. “So there is an impact on some of the specialty courts and the services that they provide.”
That includes the veterans court, drug court and domestic violence court.
Still, 1 percent of $1.6 billion is $16 million.
“I have personally joked I will go out and jaywalk and get the coffers back up, but that is not the answer,” said Councilwoman Jolie Justice, who is the vice chair of the city's Finance Committee. “The answer is that we write the correct number of tickets, so we correct the behavior that needs to be corrected, but that we are also able to pay for the public safety that is so important.”
Justice said traffic tickets should not be counted on as a revenue stream for the city, but it is a delicate balancing act. She said KCPD has always used city ordinances and violations in a responsible manner, but there are cities in Missouri, like Ferguson, that have gone out of their way to over-ticket citizens.
Laningham said there's not a quota imposed on KCPD officers and sees this as a positive public safety issue.
If the Kansas City Council approves the budget Thursday, that will mean more dispatchers at KCPD and more officers hitting the streets. The transition will be slow, but the money will be there for the department to grow.