KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City police may be able to hire more officers at a higher salary next year.
But to do it they’ll likely have to give up something that was the subject of a lawsuit between the Board of Police Commissioners and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas this year: control over how the money is spent.
Before moving on to next year’s budget, the Board of Police Commissioners voted 4-1 to transfer $300,000 from this year’s salary budget to pay for legal fees.
Lucas, also a member of the board, voted against the transfer, saying money allocated to paying police officers should be spent on salaries.
Police Chief Rick Smith explained the police department devotes 94% of its budget to salaries and benefits and there’s little wiggle room to pay for the departments other needs including equipment, utilities and other over runs like paying out lawsuits.
“I’m hearing there’s nowhere else we can save money other than salary savings,” Lucas asked Smith.
“I’m saying out of a $232 million budget to spend $13 million on everything else, I think we are running a lean budget,” Smith responded.
“It seems we are at an impasse where we have to make a change and we’ve got to prioritize our officers,” BOPC President Bishop Mark Tolbert said.
Right now KCPD has 1,200 police officers but wants a total of 1,412. KCPD has requested to hold 3 police academies of 50 recruits this coming budget year.
“What we’re all trying to do is to have a safe city and strong police force and not keep losing 140 people a year,” Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon said.
Lucas said the city will pay $850,000 annually for police utilities if the BOPC agrees to use all money in the budget for salaries, to pay salaries.
“We straight up said if there are going to be $134 million that goes to salaries, lets make sure it goes to salaries not 1,000 other places,” Lucas said.
That includes a $4.7 million increase that will boost Kansas City police starting pay from $43,400 to $46,700 a year.
“That’s what we’ve been wanting and asking for years, that there’s a commitment to pay the men and women that are still here,” Lemon said.
Smith said he could have a new budget to the Board of Police Commissioners by Monday.
Lucas said it would be important it included language of how the money had to be spent in writing, something the city has no say over right now with the police department being under state control.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the budget during a Wednesday conference call.