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Missouri governor puts KCPD spending bill to statewide vote

062722_CC_ParsonKCPDBill
Celisa Calacal
/
KCUR 89.3
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs a bill that, if approved by voters, would raise Kansas City's minimum funding requirement for the KCPD from 20% to 25%.

If the measure is approved by voters in November, Kansas City would be required to allocate a minimum of 25% of its general fund each year to the KCPD.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill Monday increasing the minimum funding requirement for the Kansas City Police Department.

The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, whose district includes Parkville, requires Kansas City to increase its general revenue allocation to the KCPD from 20% to 25% every year. The Kansas City Police Department is under an unusual governance structure — not seen in any other major city in the country — where it’s controlled by the state of Missouri through a Board of Police Commissioners.

Parson signed the bill at KCPD headquarters in downtown Kansas City. He said it will put more officers on the streets.

“In order for the system to work, you gotta have police officers on the ground every day,” Parson said. “And I will tell you, my belief is we gotta have more police officers, not less in the state of Missouri.”

With the bill signed into law, the issue now requires approval from Missouri voters before going into effect. Voters will decide in November whether to improve Kansas City’s funding requirements for the KCPD.

Parson said more officers are necessary to combat violent crime in Kansas City, adding it makes the city safer.

“We need to do everything we can to help be able to put more law enforcement officers on the street,” he said.

But local activists have pushed back on that assertion, arguing that improving safety requires funding education, social services and mental health resources. During Kansas City’s annual budget cycle, residents and activists implored the city to not fund the KCPD above what is required by state law.

State law since the mid-1950s required Kansas City, Missouri, to allocate 20% of its general revenue to the KCPD every year, though the city council often funded the department over that threshold.

Luetkemeyer said on Monday that raising the threshold to 25% is more in line with KCPD’s modern-day funding needs.

“At this critical moment, we need to make sure that we're defending our police, not defunding them,” Luetkemeyer said. “This bill ensures the brave men and women of this department have the resources they need to protect our city.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has been opposed to the bill and characterized it as a “blank check” to the KCPD. Lucas said the bill is a “step back” that restricts the choices and freedom of Kansas Citians.

“Instead, the bill represents the raw exercise of power by state lawmakers over the people of Kansas City, as the only people in our state without the ability to influence how one quarter of our budget is spent,” Lucas said in a statement.

Lucas said the bill violates the state constitution and will be challenged in court.

“Thankfully, the women and men of the Kansas City Police Department are above partisan stunts,” he said. “I wish our state legislators and state appointees would follow their lead when it comes to the safety of our families.”

Luetkemeyer touted the bill as a response to the Kansas City Council’s efforts last spring to reallocate about $42 million of the KCPD’s budget into a fund dedicated to community services and prevention. That attempt was later struck down by Jackson County Circuit Judge Patrick Campbell last fall, who ruled that Missouri grants the Board of Police Commissioners — four of whom are appointed by the governor, and the fifth member being the Kansas City mayor — exclusive management and control of the KCPD.

“If those cuts had become permanent, it would've devastated the ability of this department to provide critical public safety services at a time of record high crime in Kansas City,” Luetkemeyer said.

The City Council approved a $269 million budget for the KCPD for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. That budget includes a $33 million “community policing and prevention fund,” which was proposed by Mayor Quinton Lucas and also approved by city council in March. Much of that fund will be used to hire more police officers.

First District Councilwoman Heather Hall supported the bill to raise the minimum funding threshold for the KCPD. She said she hopes voters pass the amendment in November.

“Everybody in the state of Missouri is safer when all of our cities are safe,” she said. “People don't wanna go to St. Louis or Kansas City if we're unsafe. So they're hurting not only the cities, but they're hurting our economies, they're hurting education, they're hurting tourism.”

Celisa Calacal covers Missouri politics and local government for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter @celisa_mia or email her at celisa@kcur.org.
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