KC police commissioners argue budget cuts could affect public safety, outreach programs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Members of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners spoke Tuesday about how defunding the police and a possible 4.5% budget cut would affect the Kansas City Police Department. 

There’s only so much money to operate the department, the board said, and right now, some members argued defunding could affect public safety and the department’s efforts to meet some of protesters’ demands.  

“When people talk about defunding the police what they’re really talking about is reforming where the money goes,” Commissioner Mark Tolbert said.

Continued calls for defunding the KCPD couldn’t come at a worse time for the department. 

With the city manager asking every department to submit a plan to reduce its budget by 4.5% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, KCPD could already face more than $10 million in cuts.

That could mean a reduction in staff, possibly closing a division station and cuts to programs outside of general law enforcement.

“Some of the very things that we would be cutting are those things that people really want us to have,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas, who also serves on the police board.

KCPD already has programs in place to serve the community in a different way that could be in jeopardy. Its social worker program, Mental Health Triage Center and outreach programs like Teens In Transition could all be gone.

“What we cannot do is deploy social workers or mental health experts on 911 like we deploy police,” Commissioner Nathan Garrett said.

While acknowledging the importance of mental health and outreach programs, Garrett objected to rearranging funds if it affects basic public safety.

“There is a need to listen and consult with people who do this for a living,” Garrett said. “And while we all have opinions and thoughts, we should also be open to the fact that we may not know what we need to know about the profession of law enforcement.”

Another protester demand — bringing KCPD under local control — was supposed to be discussed Tuesday at the City Council Legal Review Meeting, but it was canceled.

The group will discuss the wording of the issue to go on the ballot in November. There is no word on when that meeting will be rescheduled.

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