JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The fight to protect the Kansas City Police Department’s funding may not be completely over, but pro-law enforcement advocates took a promising step forward during the 2022 legislative session.
Senate Bill 678, sponsored by state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, passed on the last day possible and would increase the required percentage of Kansas City’s general revenue that goes towards the KCPD.
Currently, Kansas City is required to provide 20% of its general revenue to the police department. But after an illegal attempt in 2021 by KC Mayor Quinton Lucas and the City Council to rip more than $42 million away from the department, delivering more funding to the agency – and protecting that funding – became a priority for area legislators such as Luetkemeyer.
“Today, my legislation to prevent future, radical attempts by Kansas City to defund [KCPD] goes to the ballot and [Gov. Mike Parson’s] desk,” Luetkemeyer tweeted after the bill’s passing. “I’m proud we sent a clear message – in Missouri, we defend our police, we don’t defund them.”
The bill would raise the funding requirement to 25% of Kansas City’s general revenue. But Missouri law prohibits the General Assembly from requiring a city to increase an activity or service beyond that required by existing law, which is the current 20%.
So, in order for the policy to take effect, voters must approve Senate Joint Resolution 38, which would provide an exception to the state law and allow the increase in mandated funding. SJR 38, also passed by the legislature on the last day of session, will appear on the ballot for voters to decide in November.
“The bill actually kind of settles a lot of the struggle and fights that have been going on for the last two years since the ‘defunding’ conversation began,” President of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police Brad Lemon said. “This says ‘If you go to 25%, then everything will be fine.’ Which is really close to where the department has been anyway.”
“The bill gives some stability in the entire process, and allows us to move away from this constant drumbeat of defunding versus funding,” he said.
The reason KCPD is controlled by a board of police commissioners appointed by the governor dates back to the 1930s during the Tom Pendergast era of overwhelming political corruption and fraud within Jackson County and Kansas City.
This led the state to take control of the Kansas City Police Department to prevent any further corruption or scandal in the area. As the only city under the Board of Police Commissioners’ control, KC is the only city these policies would affect.
“Missouri has a long track record of supporting our brave men and women of law enforcement,” said Shannon O’Boyle, spokesperson for KC COPS, a grassroots pro-police group. “Our state understands how important Kansas City is to our economy, and a safe Kansas City is a benefit for all Missourians. We are confident that voters will answer the call in November.”
When asked what he thinks Missouri voters will do when the measure appears on the ballot in November, Lemon predicted a “landslide.”
“In 2022, in the state of Missouri, I think you’re going to have a hard time finding a high number of people in Kansas City or outside of Kansas City that want to talk about defunding the police.”
“When people are going to sit down to start trying to figure out what they want this country to look like in the future, smaller police departments and the inability to do their job is not going to be it.”