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Missouri Republicans Take Aim At Kansas City Mayor’s New Police Budget Plan

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas listens to Gov. Bill Parsons during a visit earlier this year.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas listens to Gov. Mike Parson during a visit to Kansas City earlier this year.

State Republicans say Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas's new budgeting plan amounts to "defunding the police." Lucas shot back, saying the Republicans were "picking culture war arguments with a Fox News audience."

Some Missouri Republicans, including Gov. Mike Parson, are criticizing Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’s new police budget plan as “defunding the police” and said they are working on upending it.

At least one Kansas City-area Republican said he has asked the governor for a special session in hopes of swatting the plan down. Rep. Doug Richey, of Excelsior Springs, said the way Lucas pushed through the plan was “immature governance.” He said Lucas knows that it goes against state law.

“It’s a dangerous time,” Richey said. “Kansas City is looking at some of the highest rates of homicide and violent crime in its history and now we’re jacking with the funding of the police in this way? It’s not defensible.”

In a surprise move last Thursday, Lucas pushed his plan through Kansas City Council, taking about $42 million from the Kansas City Police Department budget and putting it in a separate fund that would give the mayor and council more say in how the money is spent.

KCPD is overseen by a five-member Board of Police Commissioners, made up of the mayor and four gubernatorial appointees.

Lucas and the eight council members who voted with him say they want to direct the funds to crime prevention and other social service programs.

Parson, speaking on a Kansas City AM radio station on Monday, demurred when asked if he would call a special session. But Parson agreed that Lucas’s plan is about cutting the KCPD’s budget.

“I think that if you’re trying in a round about way to say, 'OK, I’m going to try and be a little bit clever on how I'm defunding police,' you gotta be careful with that,” Parson said. “I think people are smart enough to see through that.”

Parson also said that Lucas can use federal pandemic assistance to pay for social services.

“If you want to do more for mental health, if you want to do more for social services, there’s going to be funding available for Kansas City and the state to be able to do new programs,” he said.

Lucas was adamant when he announced his plan that it was about having more local control of the police budget and it wasn't defunding the police.

On Monday, Lucas shot back at the Republicans who criticized his plan, saying they know nothing about how violence affects the city and are instead "picking culture war arguments with a Fox News audience." He wondered why people from Excelsior Springs and Parkville cared so much about a local problem.

"Those voices that are outside should not have more input that the people of Kansas City," he said. "Why do you distrust the people of Kansas City so much? It breaks my heart."

Lucas also wondered why state Republicans got a bill passed this year that changed the residency rule for Kansas City Police.

"It seems like when we were minding our own business they stripped the residency requirement for no reason at all," he said.

Richey said he and state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Parkville Republican, are planning on introducing legislation next January that would increase the percentage of the city’s general revenues that must be spent on the police. State law sets that at 20%, which is what Lucas wants to return to. Currently, Kansas City spends a little over 25% of general revenues on the police budget.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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