KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At a time when cities are talking about changing how police work, Kansas City warns its police department might have to operate with less money.
Some city leaders are calling for $10 million less, specifically, which would be around 4.5% of the police budget.
That equates to 212 people, according to the Kansas City Police Department. Of those positions, 89 are already vacant. It could be a mix of civilian and law enforcement positions, too.
The budget breakdown was part of an exercise Kansas City instituted in all departments, not specifically targeted at the police department.
As police and city leaders talked about possible cuts during Tuesday’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting, a group of protesters gathered outside. The building is still closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but protesters were heard inside.
Just over a dozen protesters with megaphones and signs called for KCPD Chief Rick Smith’s resignation.
“A leader should be able to hold his officers accountable and he can’t even hold himself accountable,” protester Steve Young said. “So he’s protecting those officers who kill people.”
Members of the Black Rainbow group also want local control of the police department and to defund KCPD and put that money into public housing, mental health and public schools.
“All those types of resources and services that actually help kids you know? To focus their time on things that are more constructive basically,” a protester who wanted to be known as X said.
If that doesn’t work, the group is calling for disbanding the Kansas City Police Department.
KCPD sent the following statement regarding Tuesday’s protest:
“We respect everyone’s first amendment rights. As long as the protesters are peaceful we have no issues and would like to provide a safe environment to exercise their rights.”
Questions and public comment at the police board meeting are usually presented to the board in person but are now submitted online. Lathara Smith, with KC Freedom Project, said her submitted concerns were not addressed.
“Well I’m very upset because we the public, everyone who submitted, we didn’t have a chance for voice to be heard,” Smith said.
Smith said her question pertains to an issue she brought up at last month’s board meeting but feels it wasn’t properly addressed.
“If we would have opportunity to go before them and we would’ve been able to present our own issues and comments one by one like we normally do, but we were not allowed that opportunity today and that’s ridiculous,” Smith said.
Chief Smith spoke frequently at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting about the department’s reaction to George Floyd’s killing and police response to the protesters here in Kansas City as well as KCPD’s use of force policies.