Kansas City, MO – A Jackson County judge ruled on Tuesday that the Kansas City mayor and city council’s attempt to defund the police department violated state law.
Missouri 16th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Patrick Campbell issued a ruling on Oct. 5 that said the city council could not change the police department’s budget after appropriations without first getting consent from the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, WDAF reported.
The defunding came in May, just one month after the Kansas City Police Department’s (KCPD) 2021-2022 budget was approved by the Board of Police Commissioners.
That’s when Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the city council passed two ordinances that effective defunded the police department, WDAF reported.
The council’s plan was to take $42.2 million out of the $223 million police budget and put it into a Community Services and Prevention Fund.
The ordinances called for the police board to have to negotiate with the city council over how the $42.2 million would be used, according to WDAF.
Critics complained it was a backdoor way for the mayor to defund the police department.
Lucas said it was about accountability, WDAF reported.
The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners filed a lawsuit against the city that claimed the city council and the mayor had overstepped their authority in making the grab for the police department’s budget.
The city argued that the funds transferred to the Community Services and Prevention Fund would still benefit public safety and therefore counted towards the 20 percent of the city’s general revenue that state law requires be dedicated to law enforcement, WDAF reported.
The lawsuit alleged that the mayor notified Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith of the police budget shift in a voicemail the same day the ordinances were passed by the city council.
That was the first that Chief Smith had heard of the city’s plans to defund the police department, according to WDAF.
Kansas City’s director of finance testified that the changes would cause the police department to run out of funding by February of 2022 under its current spending plan, even though its fiscal year doesn’t come to a close until April of 2022.
The budget manager for the Kansas City Police Department predicted that department funding would more likely run out in December of this year under the new ordinance, WDAF reported.
On Oct. 5, the judge put a stop to the madness when he issued a writ of mandamus that required the city to put the $42.2 million back in the police department’s budget for 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Campbell said in his ruling that state statutes give the police board “exclusive management and control” of the department and its budgeting process and said the ordinances passed by the city council to defund the police violated that law, WDAF reported.
He determined that the city broke the law when it passed ordinances to change police department funding after the board had blessed the final police department budget.
The police department released a statement that expressed relief after the judge issued his ruling, WDAF reported.
“KCPD engages in the budget process six months ahead of when the budget year begins,” the statement read. “The police department puts a great deal of effort into this process as does the city. This budget process directly affects not only the police department and the city, but the members in our community. We appreciate the court recognized the validity of the 2020-2021 budget process.”
The mayor, however, was not happy with the court’s decision and made a veiled threat about future budget approvals, WDAF reported.
“I imagine the Council will set the expectation that any dollar received by the Department over statutory requirements must be negotiated and focused squarely on preventing violent crime in our community,” Lucas said in a statement. “Discussions about next year’s budget have already started. I will continue working with the City and Department leadership to ensure every taxpayer funded entity in our City shares a role in working to prevent violent crime and create better outcomes for all people in all of our neighborhoods.”
He said the city was considering an appeal of Campbell’s ruling, WDAF reported.
The mayor also announced that he expected the police board to add more than 200 additional officers to the force during the 2021-2022 fiscal year because “there is no longer any excuse to be understaffed.”
The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has estimated that more than 100 officers, or roughly 10 percent of the police force, will have left or retired by the end of this year, and there was no new recruit class scheduled, KCTV reported.