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KCPD budget changes violated state law, judge rules

A Jackson County judge said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the city council violated state law when redistributing part of the city police department’s budget earlier this year.

Judge Patrick Campell found the changes enacted by the city altered the already-approved city budget and violated state statutes granting sole power over the Kansas City Police Department’s budget to the board. Campbell found the board proposed a fair budget but Lucas and the council interfered with that statutory requirement.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of four members of the board; Lucas is also part of the board.

“The mayor and a majority of council have proven consistently our commitment to creating safer neighborhoods and saving lives by addressing all causes of crime, and shown our willingness to take bold action to achieve such a goal,” Lucas said in a statement. “That work continues. The decision announced by the court today has provided a pathway forward for the city to require the Kansas City Police Department to engage in discussions related to crime prevention throughout future budget cycles, should the department seek to receive funds in excess of 20 percent of the city’s general fund revenue.”

Lucas said there could be negotiations on the allocation in the future, urging the board to fill more than 1,400 city-approved positions in the meantime. 

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who shepherded a bipartisan law enforcement and criminal justice package broadening the KCPD residency requirement this session, vowed to file legislation that would stop the city from taking similar action next year. 

Lucas unveiled his plan to amend the department’s budget to the minimum 20 percent of the city’s general revenue as required under state statute in May. The $42.3 million that had already been allocated was put into a separate fund — along with an additional $3 million — for the city manager and Board of Police Commissioners to oversee and use for community engagement, intervention, and other public services. 

The lawsuit named Lucas, the city council, City Manager Brian Platt, Director of Finance Tammy Queen, and the city itself. The plaintiffs sought a reversal and voiding of Lucas’ recent mandates, the return of budgetary control to the board, and a temporary restraining order against the defendants requiring the return of the funds. 

The plaintiffs pointed to the approval of the department’s budget earlier in May and short notice from Lucas before the announcement was made. According to the lawsuit, the reallocation would cause “irreparable harm” to the board’s management of the budget and necessitate cuts in staffing, purchasing, and operations. 

Lucas’s move quickly saw pushback from Kansas City legislators; state Reps. Chris Brown, Josh Hurlbert, Sean Pouche, and Doug Richey sent a letter to Gov. Mike Parson in May asking him to call an extraordinary session dedicated to addressing what they called a “defunding of the police.” 

Parson did not call a special session on the matter. 

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