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Kansas City Police Board Claims City Wants Control Of KCPD

Pat McInerney, a lawyer representing the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, talks to reporters Wednesday after a hearing on the board’s lawsuit seeking to overturn Mayor Quinton Lucas’s police reform plan.
Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Pat McInerney, a lawyer representing the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, talks to reporters Wednesday after a hearing on the board’s lawsuit seeking to overturn Mayor Quinton Lucas’s police reform plan.

If Mayor Quinton Lucas' police reform plan is implemented, the Kansas City Police Department could run out of money by the end of the year and be forced to lay off 1,000 people, the department’s budget manager testified Wednesday.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners asked a Jackson County judge on Wednesday to overturn Mayor Quinton Lucas’ police reform plan, claiming the city wants to reduce the police budget and wrest away control of the department.

The hearing was the latest in a standoff on the plan Lucas slammed through the Kansas City Council in April, giving him and the council a say in how one-fifth of the $256 million police budget is spent. The ordinance calls for about $42 million to be spent on crime prevention and social services, which Lucas argues would give the city some local control of the department.

Pat McInerney, the board’s lawyer, said Lucas’ plan is an attempt to illegally cut the police budget after it was approved in April. The board, which is appointed by the Missouri governor, oversees the department.

“Understand what this is about,” McInerney said. “This is about control, 100%.”

If Lucas’ plan is allowed to be implemented, the city will have permanent authority to require the police department to spend its budget according to the city’s priorities, McInerney said. That means the city could give the department 20% of general revenues, which is required by state law, but dangle another 5% that would have to be spent as city officials see fit, he said.

“If ordinances like this are allowed to stand, who knows what they say going down the road,” McInerney said. “They (could) say ‘You take your 20%, we’re going to take the five and you can have this five, if you hire the right folks. If you hire Democrats, if you hire Irish Catholics.”

City Attorney Tara Kelly said the city has the right to revisit appropriations, adding that KCPD has changed its budget 65 times during the last 10 years for things like buying body cameras or because of reductions in funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget “is not a concrete number. It is a working document,” she said.

The board of commissioners does not have the right to be involved in the city’s budget process, Kelly said, noting, "This is a case about authority.”

The board painted a bleak picture if Lucas’ plan is allowed to go into effect. Kristine Reiter, the police department’s budget manager, said the department will run out of money by December and would have to lay off 1,000 people, mostly in Metro, East and Central patrol divisions.

Lucas, speaking to reporters after Reiter’s testimony, called that “totally inaccurate.” The testimony was “grasping at straws,” and the hearing was a waste of time because the city and the police department have worked out budget negotiations many times, he said.

Tammy Queen, the city’s director of finance, said the police budget could run out by February. But she said no one would lose their job and the city would work out a plan with the department.

Lucas said he’d like the department to be more transparent about how it’s spending money, but emphasized his plan is not about defunding the police.

“It’s about how do we actually make sure that we’re increasing, but increasing in areas our taxpayers have consistently asked us to do: 911 dispatchers, more officers and pay raises for rank-and-file personnel,” he said.

Judge Patrick Campbell said he would rule on the issue within the week. McInerney said he would appeal an adverse ruling.

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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