Judge sets hearing for police board’s lawsuit over Kansas City police funding

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The stage is set for the courtroom showdown between the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

During a Thursday afternoon phone conference, a Jackson County judge nailed down a potential timeline of proceedings focused on the legality of two police funding ordinances.

When it comes to these ordinances, the mayor said it’s about accountability, but others argue he’s defunding the police.

Those arguments might get leveled out somewhat during an upcoming hearing, which court officials are tentatively scheduling for Sept. 1. Arguments might boil down to interpretations on budget agreements and money owed to institutions.

According to the lawsuit filed by the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, on May 20 — a month after the board approved the police department’s 2021-2022 budget — Lucas left a voicemail for Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith, telling him he was introducing this police budget shift.

Prior to this voicemail, no one from the mayor’s office or the city council advised Smith or any member of the police board or department about creating an additional budget for the department or about cutting the department’s regular budget, according to the lawsuit.

That same day the city council passed those ordinances.

Kansas City planned to place about $40 million of the $250 million police budget to a Community Services and Prevention Fund. It would give the city greater control of some police funding since the police board would need to negotiate and account for that additional funding.

The city argues the police department still has more than 20% of the city’s general revenue — as required by state law — even with the $40 million in the community fund.

During the Thursday phone conference, Judge Patrick Campbell expressed his willingness to keep those ordinances stayed — or not in effect — until Oct. 15, at the latest, as this lawsuit goes through the courts.

There’s been no movement on the city’s proposed negotiations with the police board. According to the board: “To date, the board has not contracted for return of the $42,282,444 because the board believes the city’s actions violate state law.”

Again, Sept. 1 is the tentative date for this case’s hearing. Attorneys expect it will only last one day.

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