Missouri lawmakers are moving to increase Kansas City’s budgetary obligations to the police department, a response to Mayor Quinton Lucas’ attempt this year to assert local control over part of KCPD’s spending.
State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Parkville Republican, said Tuesday he’s introducing a bill that would require the city to commit a minimum of 25% of its revenues to the department each year. Under current law, the minimum is 20%.
The measure, which Luetkemeyer plans to pre-file Wednesday ahead of the 2022 legislative session, comes after Lucas and a supermajority of the Kansas City Council in May removed $42 million from the police budget and voted to require the state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners to negotiate with the city on how it would be spent.
With the move, the city’s allocation to KCPD to spend largely how it wishes was reduced to the minimum required by state law. Lucas said at the time he wanted more accountability to local officials and a say in how the police spent the city’s money on crime prevention programs.
The move drew heavy backlash from the Board, Northland council members and Republican state lawmakers, who decried it as an effort to “defund the police.” But the ordinances the council approved also came with a $3 million increase for the department.
The budget maneuver was rejected in October by a Jackson County judge, who ruled that Lucas and the council had violated state law, which gives the Board full authority over the police department.
Lawmakers, including Luetkemeyer, vowed to impose new restrictions at the state level. Some demanded Gov. Mike Parson call a special session, which never materialized. But Luetkemeyer said he’s been in touch with Parson’s office on the legislation.
In a guest column in The Star posted Tuesday, the senator compared the attempted budget changes to a failed ballot measure in Minneapolis to completely replace its police department.
Excelsior Springs Republican Rep. Doug Richey last week said he would back similar legislation next year.
Luetkemeyer said 25% of the city’s revenues is “in line with what the modern funding needs of the department have been over the last several decades.”
The Board of Police Commissioners this month approved a $281 million budget for the police department, which is higher than the 6% increase from the previous year that Chief Rick Smith had requested. This year, before Lucas’ budget changes, about 24% of the city’s budget was allocated toward the department.
Kansas City is one of the few cities in the nation where local officials do not control the police department, a legacy of efforts to combat municipal corruption in the 1930s. It is a distinction that has frustrated local officials. Lucas has a guaranteed seat on the Board as mayor; the other four are appointed by the governor.
Luetkemeyer said the city’s attempted budget revision was proof the city should not have “local political control.”
He also wants to increase the police budget by requiring the city to count more streams of revenue in calculating how much should go toward the department. He said the city “plays a lot of games with its revenue calculations, which further reduces the funding that the PD ultimately gets.”
Lucas’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legislation. On Twitter, the mayor said he would not discuss a pre-filed bill.
“In Kansas City, we believe in local solutions to local problems,” he wrote.