‘Legally and factually false:’ Kansas City files response to Police Board lawsuit

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City, Missouri, filed its response to a lawsuit filed by Kansas City’s Board of Police Commissioners over a change in the way the city funds its police department.

The response claims that the lawsuit is legally and factually false.

In its answer to the Board of Police Commissioners lawsuit seeking a Writ of Mandamus that would overturn the city council’s action of transferring about $42 million to a new fund, the city argues approved ordinances did not violate Missouri law, and amount to “discretionary” actions not reversible by a court ordered Writ.

The filing notes that the city complied with the state law by funding the Kansas City Police Department at 20% of general fund revenues. Any amount beyond that, is discretionary.

It also notes that on several occasions in the past, the city council has revisited funding and cut the police budget, while in at least 60 other instances since fiscal year 2012, additional funding was provided.

That argument is in response to the board’s claim that the budget had been set and could not be changed. The city also argues that beyond those substantive arguments, a Writ of Mandamus is not a legal remedy, because the board also seeks a Declaratory Judgment. It also argues Writs of Mandamus are not appropriate when a governing body is exercising “discretionary” rather than “ministerial” actions.

In a separate motion to dismiss, the filing asks that the lawsuit be tossed because it individually names Mayor Quinton Lucas, each member of the City Council and City Manager Bryan Platt. The filing argues that they are also named in the lawsuit collectively as “City Council,” and that the City Council cannot be sued.

Mayor Lucas said he, and the majority of the additional City Council members, worked on legislation in hopes of making Kansas City safer.

“Since that time, the unelected majority of the Police Board and their outstate allies have claimed many things, but have not worked with the City Council, members of the Police Department, clergy, community leaders, or the neighborhoods most affected by violent crime toward a safer city,” Lucas said after the city’s response was filed. “Instead, they have pursued litigation that is short on legal foundation, high on hyperbole, and wholly without merit. The Police Board’s legal theories are undermined by the law and the Board’s own annual practices, ignore the plain language of Missouri statutes, and their desired remedy asks the Court to violate the Missouri Constitution.”

Supporters of the plan to reallocate funding to Kansas City’s Police Department have said that the department needs more accountability. They also argue that it’s against the law to require the city to give the police department more than 20% of its general revenue, which has been happening for years.

Last week, civil rights leader Gwendolyn 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.

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.

The Police Board argues that it is simply doing what it is required to do under the law. 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. The Governor has not said if that will happen.

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