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Kansas City Wants Police Board’s Lawsuit Dropped, Denies It Seeks To Control Force

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas talks to reporters after last Tuesday’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting at the Kansas City Police Department headquarters.
Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas talks to reporters after last Tuesday’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting at the Kansas City Police Department headquarters.

The war of words around Mayor Quinton Lucas’s plan to reallocate a portion of the police budget is now in the courts, with the city responding to the Board of Police Commissioners lawsuit. Both sides say the other is violating state law.

Kansas City officials said Tuesday that the lawsuit filed by the Board of Police Commissioners, seeking to overturn Mayor Quinton Lucas’s plan to reallocate part of the police budget, should be scrapped because the board got its facts wrong.

In a response to the Board’s lawsuit, filed just a week after Lucas pushed his plan through the Kansas City Council, city officials said citizens have been deprived of their ability to decide how their police force is run for 80 years but the new plan won't change that.

Since 1939, KCPD has been overseen by a five-member Board of Police Commissioners, made up of the mayor and four gubernatorial appointees. The only power the city has is a “limited power of the purse,” the filing read, because the city has little authority on how much of the tax money goes to the department.

"The board has planted the false flag that, by passing (the ordinances), the city has somehow attempted to wrest control of the police force from the board," read the filing, signed by City Attorney Tara M Kelly. "This is not true."

Lucas’s plan was laid out in two ordinances. The first took about $42 million from the $240 million police budget and reallocated it to what the city is calling the “community services and prevention fund,” which is designated for community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention, and other public services. The city and the police commission would negotiate how to spend that money. The second ordinance earmarked an additional $3 million for a new police academy class.

The board charged in its lawsuit that the change in budgeting is a violation of state law because the board has the sole authority to oversee the department. It argued that the $42 million should be returned to the board’s authority.

But the city’s new filing counters that the mayor's plan does comply with state law by continuing to fund the police department with at least 20 percent of general fund revenues.

The Urban League of Kansas City filed a motion last week to intervene in the lawsuit, saying the board is attempting “taxation without representation.” Gwen Grant, the Urban League’s president, said that the lack of representation on how police department money is spent violates the Missouri Hancock Amendment, a citizens’ initiative that limits state revenues and local taxes.

On Tuesday, Lucas said Grant’s motion addresses "the racist, segregationist system that our current system was built upon and that it violates the Missouri state constitution in terms of certain budgeting issues."

“I think the taxpayer-funded Board of Police Commissioners should drop its taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the taxpayer-funded city of Kansas City,” Lucas told KCUR’s “Up to Date.”

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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