Judge rules against Kansas City in police funding lawsuit, says changes violated state law

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Jackson County judge has ruled the Kansas City Council’s changes to the police department’s funding violate state law.

Judge Patrick Campbell issued the judgment on Tuesday.

In his ruling, Campbell said Kansas City cannot change the police department’s spending after appropriations without approval from the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.

Campbell issued a writ of mandamus that will require the city to put $42.2 million back in the police department’s budget for this fiscal year.

The police board sued the city after Mayor Quinton Lucas and the council abruptly passed two ordinances in May — a month after the police board approved the department’s 2021-2022 budget.

The city planned to place that $42.2 million, out of the $223 million police budget, in to a Community Services and Prevention Fund.

As part of the ordinances, the police board would have to negotiate with the city for how that $42 million is used. The mayor said it’s about accountability, but others argued he’s defunding the police.

The city countered that Community Services and Prevention Fund would still go toward public safety and the police department would still have more than 20% of the city’s general revenue, as required by state law.

In its lawsuit, the police board said Lucas left a voicemail for Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith telling him he was introducing this police budget shift on the same day the council passed the ordinances.

The lawsuit argues this was a month after the police budget has been approved, and no one from the department or board had heard of the city’s plans before that day they were passed.

In court, the city’s director of finance testified that if the ordinances go into effect as passed, and KCPD continues to spend money as it does, it would run out funding by February 2022. The department’s budget manager also estimated funding would run out by December 2021 or January 2022. The fiscal year doesn’t end until April 30, 2022.

Ultimately, the judge ruled that the ordinances violated a state law that gives the police board “exclusive management and control” of the department and lays out its budgeting process.

The judge ruled that city violated state law by passing these ordinances because it changed KCPD funding after the budget was finalized without the board’s permission.

The Kansas City Police Department issued the following statement:

“KCPD engages in the budget process six months ahead of when the budget year begins. The police department puts a great deal of effort into this process as does the city. This budget process directly affects not only the police department and the city, but the members in our community. We appreciate the court recognized the validity of the 2020-2021 budget process.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas issued the following statement:

“The mayor and a majority of Council have proven consistently our commitment to creating safer neighborhoods and saving lives by addressing all causes of crime, and shown our willingness to take bold action to achieve such a goal. That work continues. The decision announced by the Court today has provided a pathway forward for the City to require the Kansas City Police Department to engage in discussions related to crime prevention throughout future budget cycles, should the Department seek to receive funds in excess of 20 percent of the City’s General Fund Revenue.

“I imagine the Council will set the expectation that any dollar received by the Department over statutory requirements must be negotiated and focused squarely on preventing violent crime in our community. Discussions about next year’s budget have already started. I will continue working with the City and Department leadership to ensure every taxpayer funded entity in our City shares a role in working to prevent violent crime and create better outcomes for all people in all of our neighborhoods.

“The City will weigh all options going forward, including appeal. Given the negative implications of the decision on any mid-year budget adjustments, including those now before Council in the Department’s favor, I will continue to ask the Board of Police Commissioners to increase staffing of law enforcement based on the Department’s current fiscal year budgeting of 1,413 law enforcement positions, with only roughly 1,200 positions filled today. Council has supported the positions and there is no longer any excuse to be understaffed.”

Brad Lemon, president of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police, issued the following statement:

“Judge Campbell’s decision of today finding that the City violated state law in defunding the police department does little to repair the damage the City’s misguided decision has had on KCPD and our
members’ morale.

“KCPD has seen a record number of resignations and retirements in This year more than 100 officers have resigned or retired and 35 more will leave this year, numbers that represent nearly double the total number of resignations and retirements than any other year in KCPD history.

“It is the FOP’s sincere hope the City and the BOPC can put this unfortunate situation behind them and focus their efforts, instead, on finding ways to recruit and retain officers. If we revisit this terrible situation again next year, the Department will not be able to withstand its effects and the results will be catastrophic for public safety in Kansas City.”

FOX4 is also reaching out to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and other stakeholders. We’ll update this story as we learn more.

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