From City Hall to the court: Breaking down the lawsuit over Kansas City police funding

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners will turn to the courts to take back control of a portion of the Kansas City Police Department budget.

In a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Quinton Lucas as the only “no,” the police board decided to take legal steps to try to stop the city council from taking control of more than $42 million from the $240 million police budget. 

Greg Plumb, a criminal justice professor at Park University, said the lawsuit outlines the legal grounds the board is using to get a judge to order the city council to reverse its actions.

The filing argues the law is clear: The state has sole control over the department’s funding, and the city’s two ordinances violate that concept.

The council is shifting about a fifth of the department’s budget to a Community Services and Prevention Fund that the city manager and police board will have to agree on how to spend.

“Writ of Mandamus, declaratory judgement, temporary restraining order are all related. They’re just different ways of approaching the lawsuit,” Plumb said. “The city does not have discretion to change the budget, and that’s what they’ve done. So the Board of Police Commissioners is saying that the city is violating the state statue.” 

Lucas is a lawyer himself. He insists the city council is not violating state law. 

“This is not actually taking over any control in Chapter 84,” Lucas said. “We’ve read it front and back. You can enter into a contract. This is all we’re doing, and it doesn’t allow Quinton Lucas to go in and tell somebody what to do.” 

Plumb expects a lengthy legal battle to iron out the specifics. 

“Whichever side loses in the circuit court will appeal, and it should go to Missouri Court of Appeals and then Missouri Supreme Court. Then for them to seek a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, that’s really going to be a stretch,” Plumb said. 

The mayor doesn’t believe it’s a stretch. On the latest episode of 4Star Politics, he explained that he believes the current structure of the state-controlled police department violates the U.S. Constitution. 

“We will continue to fight not to stay in the dark about where our money goes, what we’re doing and how the hell, once and for all, we can get out of this generational problem,” Lucas said. “We have a murder problem in Kansas City, and I’ll tell you I’m committed to solving it if it takes us going all the way to U.S. Supreme Court to do it.” 

Specifically, Lucas said he believes the governance structure of KCPD violates the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment. Plumb said he disagrees. 

“I think this is a stretch to say this is a violation of Equal Protection because it’s not about whether one person gets the same protection under the law as someone else,” Plumb said. “This is a city, and the state can control cities.” 

The police board has also requested a temporary restraining order that would force the city to go through with the budget that was submitted and approved back in March while things play out in court. Attorneys tell FOX4 that a hearing has been set on this for next week, but we’re still waiting on the final order. 

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