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Kansas City Police Board Sues Mayor, City Council To Stop New Police Budget Plan

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners meets in this file photo taken last month.

Alleging Mayor Quinton Lucas and other city officials “defaulted on their duties,” the board is seeking a quick stop to implementation of the plan because it says it violates state law.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners on Friday sued Mayor Quinton Lucas and the city council, seeking to quickly put a stop to Lucas’s new police budget plan that the board says is a violation of state law and could harm police operations.

The board voted 4-1, with Lucas the only no vote, to pursue the legal action, then filed suit in Jackson County Circuit Court about an hour later. The lawsuit says that Lucas, city council, and City Manager Brian Platt “defaulted on their duties” when they pushed through the plan in a few hours last week.

According to the lawsuit, the change in budgeting is a violation of state law because the board, which is appointed by the Missouri governor, has the sole authority to oversee the department. Moving funds around also puts the police department’s operations in danger, the suit said.

By reallocating about $42 million, or one-fifth of the entire budget, to have the mayor and council have a say in how it is spent will “cause irreparable harm to the operations of the police department and to the Board’s exclusive management and control of the police department’s budget,” the lawsuit says.

A clearly angry Lucas met with reporters outside KCPD headquarters at noon. He said the courts will recognize that a system that diminishes any local control is not “constitutionally appropriate."

He also lashed out at people who say the police budget should not be touched – and perhaps even increased – because of the city’s high homicide and violent crime rates.

“There are some people that are arguing that Kansas City is a city in crisis. They ain't from Kansas City," Lucas said. “I grew up with a city in crisis. I'm a young man who grew up with bullets flying around my house. People getting murdered down the street. You going to try to look us in the eye and tell us there was a new crisis this week? This is craziness.”

The board’s legal filings Friday seek a temporary restraining order, followed by a permanent order, that would block Lucas’s plan from going into effect.

Since 1939, KCPD has been overseen by a five-member Board of Police Commissioners, made up of the mayor and four gubernatorial appointees.

Lucas created the plan through two ordinances. The first ordinance takes $44 million from the police budget of about $240 million and reallocates it to what the city is calling the “community services and prevention fund,” for community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention, and other public services. Platt and the police commission would negotiate how to spend that money.

The second ordinance earmarks an additional $3 million for a new police academy class.

While Lucas has denied that the plan is about “defunding the police,” that line has become a rallying cry from his critics. Thursday night, some 500 people packed into a town hall meeting in the Northland to decry the mayor’s action as a betrayal of them and the police.

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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