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Kansas City makes hate crime penalties more severe with new ordinance

 People walk with a banner that says "We Stand With You"
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
Sporting KC walks in the Kansas City Pride Community Alliance’s KC Pride parade.

The ordinance adds new protections for victims of hate crimes in Kansas City by adding an enhancement penalty for hate-motivated municipal offenses. It is the Kansas City Council’s first major legislative action this year.

People who commit some city offenses could serve an additional 60 days on top of their sentence after the Kansas City Council added an enhanced penalty for hate-motivated city violations Thursday.

The hate crimes ordinance passed unanimously and is the council’s first major legislative action this year.

If the city prosecutor proves a municipal offense was knowingly motivated by bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, a judge can add jail time to their original sentence.

Sixth District At-Large Council member Andrea Bough championed the ordinance after recognizing the need for a municipal hate crime policy.

“It's something that I think is very important that we ensure that those offenses that might fall through the cracks are met with the seriousness of the offense,” Bough said.

In a letter of support for the ordinance, Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ Commission, which helped develop the legislation, said the ordinance would add “an additional tool to protect victims of hate crimes” in Kansas City.

“Members of our community should be protected from fear, intimidation, harassment, and physical harm in the City of Kansas City,” the group wrote in its public testimony letter.

Bough developed the policy with the help of the commission, the City Prosecutor’s Office and the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department. Council members Eric Bunch, Crispin Rea, Jonathan Duncan, Lindsey French and Wes Rodgers co-sponsored the ordinance.

This ordinance does not affect state or federal crimes, which already have hate crime enhancements. Kansas City’s municipal courts handle minor criminal cases that violate City ordinances.

Missouri passed a statute raising the punishments for hate crimes in 2017. However, Missouri disproportionately charges Black people with hate crimes, though white people commit the majority of all hate crimes.

In a 2021 report, the Movement Advancement Project, an independent think tank, found that Missouri was one of 13 states where law enforcement charged Black offenders with hate crimes at a disproportionate rate.

Black people make up about 11% of the population in Missouri, but nearly 33% of law enforcement-reported hate crimes listed Black offenders.

Rea said the city needed to make this statement while it’s under increased scrutiny.

“As we continue to be in the spotlight both on national TV and soon internationally, with the World Cup, it is important for us to continue to reiterate and reaffirm our commitment that this is a safe and welcoming city,” Rea said.

When news breaks, it can be easy to rely on officials and people in power to get information fast. As KCUR’s general assignment and breaking news reporter, I want to bring you the human faces of the day’s biggest stories. Whether it’s a local shop owner or a worker on the picket line, I want to give you the stories of the real people who are driving change in the Kansas City area. Email me at savannahhawley@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @savannahhawley.
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