KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Defund or reallocate? Kansas City’s city manager and a police board member are speaking out Friday.
One day after the mayor and city council fast-tracked a funding shift for the Kansas City Police Department, there have already been new developments.
While the mayor doubles down on his plan for the department, the Board of Police Commissioners says not so fast.
City Manager Brian Platt said he looks forward to working with the police board on these new ordinances. But at least one board member said he was blindsided, and this isn’t a good way to start a conversation.
With the police department’s budget in limbo, Commissioner Nathan Garrett said he was shocked by Thursday’s announcement.
“Politics and law enforcement are a toxic combination,” Garrett said. “This is a ransom right now. We’re being compelled under duress to enter into some contract with them. The structure of which, I don’t know. Presumably, they will create it to their liking.”
Mayor Quinton Lucas, along with majority of the city council, pushed through two ordinances restructuring the budget and how funds are allocated.
The state requires 20% of the city’s general budget to go to the department, and now anything beyond that they’ll need approval from the city for how it’s used.
Lucas said more than $42 million over that 20% will go into a Community Services and Prevention fund that will benefit “community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention, and other public services, including as necessary providing for an additional recruiting class to facilitate the provision of community services.”
Platt, along with the board and community input, will need to negotiate on how those additional funds will be used. Only the department will be able to contract with the city for those funds.
“I wouldn’t say that I have a list of demands, so to speak. At this point, we’re going to have some conversations over the next couple weeks, and however long it takes to get things right,” Platt said.
However, Garrett said the board will need to look into the legalities of the ordinance at its core.
“We have to address our legal options as a board. We have to protect our police department, and I will. And we ultimately have to protect the people we serve, and I will,” Garrett said.
Platt said staffing level concerns based on budget changes shouldn’t be an issue. He said this plan gives police more money in the long run.
“Whatever we put forward is going to be a plan that we hope is in the best interest of everyone in this city. So I don’t think there’s an opportunity here for failure, but an opportunity for what is going to be included or not included at this point,” Platt said.
“We are not going to let the men and women of this department, and their families and the people they serve, to die on the alter of politics. I will not allow it,” Garrett said.
Garrett is unsure at this point what this will look like legally. He’s a lawyer himself and will be looking to see what their options are. He said he’s had a lot of support from lawmakers and hopes to see a special session on the issue.
Platt said he’s looking forward to discussions with the board and community members on how to best spend the money in the future.