KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Jackson County judge ruled Tuesday that Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the City Council violated state law for passing two ordinances that defunded KCPD by over $42 million.
Judge Patrick W. Campbell ruled that Kansas City cannot make major changes to the funding of the police department without approval from the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, an assertion the Board of Commissioners has held since the beginning. Campbell also ruled that the budget cuts could not be made after the KCPD budget had been finalized, which it had been prior to the ordinances’ passing.
“KCPD engages in the budget process six months ahead of when the budget year begins,” KCPD said in a statement. “The police department puts a great deal of effort into this process as does the city. The budget process directly affects not only the police department and the city, but the members in our community. We appreciate that the court recognized the validity of the 2020-2021 budget process.”
In May, the Kansas City Council approved two proposals that sought to “reallocate” $42.3 million directly out of KCPD’s funding and put it towards different “community measures”. The move was widely criticized as effectively defunding the Kansas City Police Department and faced calls of action to stop the budget cuts by several elected officials.
The attempt to massively cut KCPD’s budget confused many as just days before the proposals were introduced, KC Police Chief Rick Smith announced the department was under a hiring freeze because of inadequate funding.
KCPD noted that they never received a notice of the budget cuts until Lucas left a voicemail to the KC Chief of Police just hours before the mayor introduced the proposals. Oddly enough, Lucas actually notified members of the media before reaching out to the chief of police.
Since Lucas and the City Council passed the proposals, they have received immense backlash and legal challenges regarding the funding cuts. Almost immediately after the measures were passed, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners filed a lawsuit arguing that the Board has “exclusive management and control” over the budget – which was eventually confirmed when Campbel ruled in their favor.
The mayor and City Council also came under fire for potentially violating state law by having secret, pre-vote discussions about the proposal but refused to include all council members in those discussions. Due to the vastly controversial – and illegal – nature of how the proposals were passed, Lucas along with five council members are currently facing a recall effort from a pro-police group called Take KC Back.
Additionally, Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed an amicus brief opposing the funding cuts and contended that neither the mayor or the city council legally could reallocate funds away from KCPD without the Commissioners’ approval.
President of KC Fraternal Order of Police Brad Lemon’s statement on the ruling:
“Judge Campbell’s decision today of finding that the City violated state law in defunding the police department does little to repair the damage the City’s misguided decision has had on KCPD and our members’ morale. KCPD has seen a record number of resignations and retirements. More than 100 officers have resigned or retired and 35 more will leave this year, numbers that represent nearly double the total number of resignations and retirements than any other year in KCPD history. It is the FOP’s sincere hope that the City and the BOPC can put this unfortunate situation behind them and focus their efforts, instead, on finding ways to recruit and retain officers. If we revisit this terrible situation again next year, the Department will not be able to withstand its effects and the results will be catastrophic for public safety in Kansas City.”
Lemon’s fear may be a reality, though, as Lucas claimed the city will “weigh all options going forward, including appeal,” in response to Campbell’s ruling. If an appeal is brought forward, the City Council and Lucas can expect criticism and calls for them to be removed from office to continue.