KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Council’s finance committee continued to debate pulling millions out of the police department’s budget for a special fund, but ultimately found a compromise Wednesday.
With budget talks ramping up, council members have choices to make to ensure taxpayer money is actually spent on putting more cops on the streets.
Once again, some members of the city council want to create a separate community policing fund and put $33 million in it that otherwise would go directly to the Kansas City Police Department.
Kansas City police still would receive 20% of the city’s general revenues, as required by state law.
Council members said they have given the police department money in previous years for pay raises and to hire new officers, but commanders instead chose to spend the money on other things, including lawsuit settlements.
“They have demonstrated repeatedly in the past that if we put all of the money in their hands, they will spend it however the heck they want,” Councilwoman and finance chair Katheryn Shields said.
By creating a separate fund primarily for police staffing, council members said the police chief would have to request grants, and council members would have more control over making sure tax dollars are dedicated to staffing and pay raises.
Many in the police department oppose the changes, arguing the community fund also would be open to spending from outside groups.
“I’m concerned that your amendment will cause us to have to fire police officers,” police commissioner Cathy Dean said, “and I don’t ever want that to happen — ever.”
Shields’ proposal for the separate fund had the support of council members Melissa Robinson and Lee Barnes, but she needed support from one more member of the six-person committee for it to move on.
Mayor Quinton Lucas has proposed an alternative after coming to a deal with the police board. The city would still create a separate fund with $33 million, but police would have control over the fund and only police could spend that money.
The mayor said an agreement reached between the police board and the city gives him confidence that police will no longer siphon tax money away from staffing and personnel costs.
Lucas’s proposal had enough votes to pass out of committee and will move to the full city council Thursday.