Missouri lawmakers ask Gov. Parson to call special session over changes in police funding

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A group of Republican lawmakers from Kansas City asked Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session to deal with what they call the “rapidly developing situation” that changes the way Kansas City’s police department is funded.

Reps. Josh Hurlbert, Sean Pouche, Chris Brown, and Doug Richey signed the letter. Each member of Missouri’s House of Representatives represents part of Kansas City’s northland.

The four lawmakers wrote they are “dismayed” that Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and other members of the City Council suddenly passed two ordinances last week without public input.

The letter goes on to say budget cuts, hiring freezes, and a lack of funding for a police academy class affected the department. The lawmakers call any further cuts “both dangerous and reckless.”

They wrote that lawmakers must move to protect citizens because “Kansas City is a city in crisis.” They said the move by the mayor and council “pushes a city we love and represent closer to the brink of disaster.”

The city is required by the state to give 20% of its general revenue to the police department. Anything over that 20% would be placed in a Community Services and Prevention Fund. The police department would need to make requests for money from that fund. It’s up to the city manager and Board of Police Commissioners to approve the funding requests.

The mayor and remainder of the city council supported the plan. They said the change won’t impact the amount of funding much, but it will increase accountability within the police department.

Police Chief Rick Smith, the Board of Police Commissioners and four city council members said they were not notified about the changes until the mayor introduced the plan.

The police board voted Monday against moving forward with the mayor’s plan and instead consider all of its legal options first.

The board also voted to appoint Nathan Garrett and Cathy Dean, both BOPC members, to a litigation committee. They will look at all legal options to enforce the board’s rights and responsibilities.

The board also agreed to move into litigation if the committee finds legal standing to move forward. Garrett said this is what’s best for Kansas City and the department.

Lucas has said he’s trying to change the way policing is done in Kansas City, but insists this isn’t a move to defund the department, only to give the city more control over it.

He released the following statement on lawmakers’ call for a special session Wednesday afternoon:

“While I welcome my Republican friends’ newfound interest in the plight of Kansas Citians, particularly in our inner-city neighborhoods, respectfully, our community, my community, has been in a violent crime crisis for my entire lifetime. With more than 100 murders per year in Kansas City for generations, we have to work non-stop and creatively to fix our serious gun violence problem, not continue to look the other way as our state legislature majority has done for too long.

Our plan increases funding to the police department while we also as a city and with separate investments are addressing the root causes of crime, like poverty, lack of adequate mental health, and housing instability. Thousands of my brothers and sisters have died on Kansas City’s streets since the 1980s. The crisis has long been here. While new to some legislators, it’s not new to Black Kansas Citians. I hope our legislature, rather than using cities as a talking point to appeal to their base, works with us, as we respect our police, our educators, and our health care establishment to actually make a difference in outcomes for our city and work with us to make Kansas City safer.

For those legislators interested, I am inviting them to join me and neighborhood leaders on a walking tour of our neighborhoods most consistently impacted by violent crime. We all have to work together on solutions to this problem and we all know funding in one area alone will not solve all our problems.”

Parson has not said if he will honor the request to call a special session.

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