State on behalf of police board sues Mayor Lucas, Kansas City over police funding

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*Editor’s note: This story was updated and corrected to reflect that the police department receives 20% of the general fun, not the overall budget

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Litigation filed Friday by the state of Missouri on behalf of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners against Mayor Quinton Lucas, the city council and city manager requests that the city follow state statute for funding the police department.

“The Board of Police Commissioners has met twice this week, and not spent a minute talking about violent crime in our community and how we can make our neighborhoods safer,” Lucas said Friday in response to the legal action. “Today’s lawsuit reflects failure. The failure of our status quo, where power and politics get more attention and energy from our state than the toll of violence in our neighborhoods and tragedies in our streets each and every day.”

The legal petition also states that the Missouri statute grants exclusive management and control of the police department to a five-person board made up of Kansas City’s mayor and four gubernatorial appointees.

Mayor Lucas has said that Kansas City needs to have local control of its police, not the state.

“There’s some of us that are saying that the system of power that has existed has not kept us safe.
At the end of the day … this isn’t about safety, this is about power and who has it,” Lucas said.

Bishop Mark Tolbert, President of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners responded to Lucas’ comments Friday afternoon.

“While I understand the frustration of the Mayor, the City Council and some citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, I also understand that we must abide by the laws enacted by our Missouri Legislature,” Tolbert said. “In March 2021, the City appropriated funds for the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department’s operating expenses for the year. An unexpected $42 million change to our budget risks a disruption in services to our citizens.”

Tolbert asked the mayor and city council to withdraw the two ordinances passed last week. Tolbert said if that doesn’t happen the Board of Police Commissioners will be forced to pursue legal avenues in order to fulfill it’s duties required by the state. 

Last week, Mayor Lucas introduced two new ordinances and the city council passed them in the span of one day with no public comment.

Under the new plan, the Kansas City Police Department will still receive the required 20% of the city’s general fund, but beyond that — this year, more than $40 million — will go to a Community Services Fund that the city manager and police board will have to agree on how the department will use.

Mayor Lucas introduced the ordinances and the city council passed them in the span of one day with no public comment, leaving some residents frustrated.

Lucas has said the new laws aren’t an effort to defund the police department, but instead create accountability with the department. He pointed out that the police department will actually get more funding under the new laws.

Supporters of the plan have said it’s a step in the right direction. They said that crime continues to increase and what the city and police department have done in the past haven’t made Kansas City safer.

Critics don’t like how quickly the new laws were passed. In fact, four members of the city council, the police chief and police board said they were not notified of the change until the mayor announced it.

A group of Missouri lawmakers, who represent Kansas City’s Northland have asked Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session to deal with the change. The governor hasn’t said if he will honor that request.

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