KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time Tuesday, Missouri state senators heard a plan to increase funding for Kansas City’s police department.
The plan raises the required amount taken from the city’s general fund for KCPD from 20% to 25% of the total pot.
Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith spoke before the state judiciary committee in defense of Senate Bill 678.
“We’ve seen a retraction of some of the funds that we’ve had in the past,” Smith said. “Since I’ve been chief, the highest number of officers we’ve had is about 1,387. Today we stand at just over 1,160.”
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville.
The bill draws a line in the sand, saying no less than 25% of all city revenue, including taxes and fees, will go to the Kansas City Police Department. Right now, it’s 20%.
“Last year, we had the highest number of homicides on record in a single year,” Luetkemeyer said. “At this critical juncture, we need to be making sure that we are supporting our law enforcement officers not defunding them to the tune of over $40 million, which is what the city council did in May.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, Lucas spoke out against the bill.
“This bill does not guarantee anything for our rank-and-file police officers or for our community,” Lucas said. “The bill, as it’s currently written, is illegal and actually unconstitutional under the law of Missouri.”
Lucas is referring to the Hancock Amendment, which puts a cap on raising taxes and fees without voter approval.
Luetkemeyer said Senate Joint Resolution 38, a companion piece of legislation, would fix that by bringing the proposed change to the ballot this year.
“What it would simply ask voters is whether or not they think the legislature should have the ability to require minimum funding by municipalities for police departments to keep cities from defunding the police,” Luetkemeyer said.
Luetkemeyer said the bill could clear the judiciary committee in the next week and then would head to the full Senate.
Lucas hopes it doesn’t make it that far.
“This is just a game of political shenanigans trying to answer a political point that is not an issue in Kansas City,” Lucas said.