KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ plan to dramatically change police funding was met with swift political reaction Thursday.
Leaders from the Kansas City Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police union, to city hall and the statehouse in Jefferson City all spoke out on the issue.
A Missouri representative confirmed to FOX4 that a group of lawmakers are already planning to ask Gov. Mike Parson to hold a special session to stop this plan.
The legislation means that 20% of the city’s budget will still go to the Kansas City Police Department, which is required by Missouri statute. That’s over $150 million in Kansas City’s case.
But now, anything over that 20% will go to a new Community Services and Prevention Fund that the city and police board will have to agree on how to spend.
At Thursday afternoon’s council meeting, the council passed the ordinances through a same-day adoption, a highly unusual move.
But one city council member called the sudden announcement on meeting day “sinister.” Four council members who were not part of the plan insist the funding change is the wrong move and believe it won’t make the city any safer.
The four members representing Kansas City’s Northland didn’t mince words about a plan to change KCPD funding and shift dollars to the community services fund.
“This is absolutely the worst piece of legislation I’ve seen since I’ve been here at city hall,” councilwoman Teresa Loar said.
The group insists it was blindsided by the mayor’s proposal, only learning about it as the public did Thursday morning.
“If this was such a great opportunity, then there should’ve been transparency, should’ve been shared information so we all knew what was happening but we didn’t,” councilwoman Heather Hall said.
The Northland leaders insist policing in their districts is already lacking, with four or less officers patrolling the entire area north of the river at most times. And they’re convinced shifting tens of millions of dollars in funding will only make matters worse.
“This severely compromises the ability of KCPD to respond in a timely and effective manner to calls for service. If this results in reduction of police staff, and certain it will, this will further compromise that ability,” councilman Dan Fowler said.
And they fear neighborhoods most impacted by violent crime will suffer, too.
“This is about protecting the people who are most vulnerable, need the help and want police to come when they call,” Hall said.
The mayor called out state lawmakers, who he said haven’t done enough to help Missouri’s largest cities crack down on crime. Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, refutes that, pointing to measures he helped pass on witness protection and keeping violent offenders behind bars.
“Right now we have one of six most dangerous cities in America, down over 100 officers in our police force right now. If we think cutting funding to police department is somehow going to make our streets safer, that’s totally crazy,” Luetkmeyer said.
Luetkemeyer also believes an emergency legislative session should be called to stop this plan. Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, told FOX4 a group of lawmakers are already asking the governor to call for the session, but ultimately it will be up to Parson.
Richey said the city is getting a large amount of money from the federal stimulus, and changes in funding for KCPD are unnecessary.
“For them to play games with KCPD’s budget, it just goes beyond the pale, and I think that we’re going to be taking a serious look, I’m going to be taking a serious look with respect to the various responsibilities I have within the general assembly, and we want to do the right thing.”
The Northland city council members insisted they support changes within KCPD and even having police justify money they get from the city budget.
But the group said they should’ve been included in the conversation to help tweak the proposal, and they worry there’s not enough restriction on how the money pulled from police to the general fund for community services to prevent crime can be spent.