City government

Missouri passes bill to raise KC police funding bill

In direct response to the Kansas City Council’s decision last year to exercise greater control over police spending, Missouri lawmakers on Friday approved two bills aimed at forcing the city to spend more money for law enforcement.

One of the two measures would increase the minimum percentage of Kansas City’s general revenue that must be spent on policing from 20% to 25%. He passed the Missouri House by a vote of 102-32 on the last day of the legislative session and awaits a Republican signature Governor Mike Parson.

The other, an amendment to the state constitution, would allow voters to decide whether the legislature can increase minimum police funding. The House voted 103 to 44 to send the bill to the Secretary of State.

The decision to approve the two measures in the final hours of the legislative session drew heavy criticism from Kansas City-area Democrats, who argued the move was a politically motivated attempt to stifle scrutiny local. It illustrates the continued anger of GOP lawmakers and a sustained push to end Kansas City’s unusual state of police control.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Parkville and sponsor of both bills, said the constitutional amendment would allow the funding increase to take effect if the bill is signed by Parson. He described the legislation as a victory for police officers.

“We must prevent future radical attempts to defund the KCPD,” he told The Star on Friday. “This ensures that the brave men and women of the KCPD have the resources they cut to keep our city safe.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was in Washington, D.C. visit to the White House with Acting Police Chief Joseph Mabin during the vote. Lucas is part of a group of mayors meeting with President Joe Biden and other officials to discuss how local police departments can tap into federal funding to pay for increased public safety.

“I’m disappointed to hear that the House and Senate have taken this step which is a step backwards for Missouri and Kansas City,” Lucas told the Star. “We need more local influence on how we make our policing decisions.”

“Just today I’m with the Chief of Police at the White House talking about how we can make Kansas City safer,” he said. “Today’s action in Jefferson City does the exact opposite of that.”

Lucas continued, “We will continue to fight for the people of Kansas City to make our community safer. Not just playing politics with Jefferson City.

Kansas City leaders react to General Assembly decision on police funding

The increased funding would be used to hire more police officers, hire additional community inaction officers and provide a pay raise for uniformed and civilian employees, Bishop Mark Tolbert said.

“I’m confident that the police commissioners and the mayor will work diligently to ensure that any funds that come from the city to the police department are spent effectively,” Tolbert told The Star.

Faith leaders and community activists wanted part of the department’s $269 million operating budget to fund crime prevention, community outreach and other crime-fighting initiatives.

“The passage of this blatant legislation further argues for local control of the KCPD,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “It is the height of hypocrisy for this Conservative legislature to dictate how a local government should allocate its resources.

“The mayor, city council and civic leaders should immediately seek every avenue to gain local control of the KCPD and prevent this oppressive government from reaching the Missouri Legislature,” she said.

Darron Edwards, senior pastor of United Believers Community Church, advocated for improved police department-community relations and challenged how increased funding would reduce crime and enhance police accountability.

“Nobody denies that we need the police. Everyone should agree that we need better policing,” Edwards said. “Now that the measure has been passed, how will this increased revenue improve policing throughout Kansas City? Will it help retain agents? I doubt.

“Will this help improve community trust so that violent crimes can be solved? I doubt. Will it be used to fund organizations that are willing to help with prevention and collaboration? I doubt it,” Edwards said.

Other community leaders pushed for local control over the police department. The General Assembly action gives new urgency to this effort, said Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2, a local social justice organization.

“We hope this type of legislation will wake up voters in Kansas City,” McDonald said. “We have no control over our own taxes and we need local control of these police departments. Shame on the Missouri lawmakers who voted yes for this legislation and flouted home rule.

Capt. Leslie Foreman, spokesperson for the KCPD, said the department’s primary focus will continue to reduce violent crime and build relationships in the community.

Melissa Robinson, who represents the 3rd District on City Council, has fought for city leaders to have more say in our council-allocated police department spending.

“This is a sad day for Kansas City taxpayers,” Robinson said. “It is unconscionable that the citizens of Kansas should pay for government activities without having a say in policing policies or accountability. The rights of Kansas Citizens are just as important as those of any other Missourian.

“We have to get out of this archaic model and work for local control. We are the only city in our nation under this type of oppressive regime. Change cannot come fast enough,” she said.

This story was originally published May 13, 2022 12:59 p.m.

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Glenn E. Rice is an investigative journalist who focuses on law enforcement and the justice system. He’s been with The Star since 1988. In 2020, Rice helped investigate discrimination and structural racism that went unchecked for decades within the Kansas City Fire Department.

A reporter for the Kansas City Star covering Missouri government and politics, Kacen Bayless is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a major in investigative journalism. He previously covered projects and surveys on the South Carolina coast. In 2020, he received South Carolina’s highest honor for assertive journalism.