Judge hears testimony on battle over Kansas City police funding

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Jackson County judge heard testimony Wednesday in the power struggle for control of the city’s police department.

Attorneys for the police board claim there would be drastic cuts, if commissioners fail to reach a funding agreement with the city.

A police budget manager testified Wednesday that the department would run out of money at the end of the year, or in January at best, if the city’s plan to put $42 million in a separate community services account went into effect.

According to testimony, without that $42 million in the police budget, the Metro and Central patrol divisions would have to shut down entirely, and the East patrol division would face about a 40% cut in staffing.

In all, budget manager Christine Rieder testified that police would have to lay off about 1,000 employees.

Mayor Quinton Lucas was in the courtroom listening and later called that testimony a bunch of nonsense.

“We have now heard, I think, three different numbers about how many officers would be laid off,” Lucas said. “It was 400 a few weeks ago. Then it was 500. For the first time today I heard it’s a thousand. I think what we’re seeing is testimony that’s just grasping at straws consistently.”

City Finance Director Tammy Queen testified that the city is only obligated to fund police at 20% of its general revenues.

She cited examples of agreements between the police department and the city to perform additional services in exchange for budget funding.

It’s also not unusual for the city to take money away from the police department after a budget has been approved and allocated.

Just last year the city reduced the police budget by more than $5-million because of a drop in tax collections brought on by the pandemic.

Argument in the case is continuing at this hour.

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