KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s Urban League President and CEO took legal steps to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners against the city of Kansas City.
Gwendolyn Grant’s lawsuit was in response to a change in the way the city plans to fund the police department.
In May, the City Council voted to continue to spend 20% of its general revenue on the police department, which is required by state law. Any additional money would go into a community safety fund. The department would be required to request any additional money needed out of that fund.
The Kansas City’s Board of Police Commissioners filed a lawsuit against Mayor Quinton Lucas, the City Council and others, challenging the funding change.
Fast forward to Monday, when Grant filed a complaint, asking to be allowed to join the lawsuit, on behalf of Kansas City taxpayers.
Grant’s petition claims the way the Kansas City Police Department and the Police Board operate is illegal because it taxes people without representation under the Handcock Amendment.
The Hancock Amendment protects Missouri cities from being forced by state agencies to perform services or pay for services that are not required.
Grant said she believes that’s exactly what the current funding structure for the police department does.
She pointed out that Kansas City’s Board of Police Commissioners is run by the state. Local taxpayers have no control over how it operates. She said the police department requests and receives more funding annually than what the city is required to provide.
Grant said the formula is a hardship for more than 200,000 minorities living in Kansas City.
“Today, I filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Board of Police Commissioners in order to assert my constitutional rights as a Kansas City taxpayer and as an African American,” Grant said.
“Enough is enough. Kansas Citians cannot be made to write a blank check to a Board that does not answer to us, is unrepresentative of our needs, and sues our elected officials when they don’t acquiesce to the Board’s every demand.”
The police board released a statement last month in response to the funding change, saying “an unexpected $42 million change to our budget risks a disruption in services to our citizens.”
In the past, Lucas said the funding change is not to defund the police department. He argued the department would receive more funding under the new plan. He said the only true change is that accountability would be added to Kansas City’s Police Department.
Lucas released a statement in response to Grant’s motion to intervene.
“Gwen Grant took a bold step today on behalf of the rights of all Kansas City taxpayers, particularly African Americans and other minorities, whose voices have for over a century been diminished in public safety conversations,” Lucas said in the statement.
State lawmakers representing the Northland area of Kansas City have asked Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session to address the funding issue.