KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners heard a presentation during their Tuesday meeting that advocated for the creation a new city jail.
The push comes at the same time as legal action scrutinizing how KCPD should be funded and at what level.
The meeting was the first since Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas sued the board of police commissioners, as well as other Missouri officials, over a new state law requiring a higher level of KCPD funding.
The law would force Kansas City to fund its police department at 25% of its general fund. The city was previously required to fund up to 20% of its general fund.
That expansion, described by Lucas’s lawsuit, is an unfunded mandate by the state for the city, an action he describes as unconstitutional.
The meeting was cordial but question on funding looms over other discussions before the board including a presentation by KCPD staff advocating for a revived city jail. The project would require action by the city council.
“Three-hundred and five beds isn’t enough. Take any given day, the amount of arrests we have it doesn’t take us long to get to that number,” KCPD Deputy Chief Mike Wood said.
“Not all those people that we’ve caught are still in jail because they don’t have the space to keep them while they’re awaiting trial,” KCPD Deputy Chief Doug Niemeier said.
According to KCPD’s numbers, since May of 2021, 63 total inmates have been sentenced by a judge but “released against the court’s objection” due to lack of space.
One-hundred and forty-two total inmates have been “Emergency Released” due to lack of space, according to their figures.
Although Jackson County is building its new jail nearby there are currently no plans to contract with the county to house municipal inmates.
“In a dream world you’d have state facilities, city facilities, rehabilitation center that’s there for everybody – and then they all get that same sort of service. politics are just more difficult than that,” Lucas said.
“It will continue to be a shared conversation. Right now KCPD actually handles our detentions so there’s even a question of out of which budget bucket it comes from? But that’s something better off done collaboratively and ultimately that’s why I say that local influence in terms of how you make those choices is most important,” Lucas said.
Municipal inmates currently are house in Vernon and Johnson Counties meaning there are long commutes for Kansas City employees. Also, rehabilatory services are only provided virtually – a reality described as less effective than in-person services by KCPD staff.
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