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Schmitt warns KCPD budget reallocation violates law, will have ‘destructive, deadly consequences’ 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Kansas City’s police budget reallocation is an illegal attempt to “defund the police.”

Schmitt filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit against the city and Mayor Quinton Lucas Thursday, arguing the move to reduce the police department budget to the minimum 20 percent of general revenue endangered the city, deprived at-risk communities of policing, and violated state law. 

“Kansas City’s shortsighted move to defund their police force will have lasting, destructive, and deadly consequences for its residents,” Schmitt said. “Last year, 176 people were murdered in Kansas City, marking the deadliest year in the city’s history. Despite this grim milestone, the city council and mayor’s decision defunds critical patrol divisions in areas that saw roughly 80 percent of Kansas City’s murders last year, and will potentially eliminate approximately 480 sworn officer positions.”

“Attempts to defund the police will deprive Kansas City residents of a needed police presence and exacerbate homicide and violent crime rates plaguing Kansas City and major cities across Missouri and the country,” he continued.

Schmitt argued the move violated state laws restricting the city council from interfering in police department operations, specifically protecting its budget from transfers to the city’s general revenue fund without the board’s consent. He also said the move would require a large reduction in personnel and pointed to an increase in violent crime in New York City and Portland after the cities made their own budget cuts. 

The controversial move in May lowered the Kansas City Police Department’s budget to the minimum of 20 percent of general revenue. The $42 million that had already been allocated was then put into a separate fund with an additional $3 million for community engagement, intervention, and other public services. 

The state filed suit against Lucas, other officials, and the city itself on behalf of a majority of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners in May. The board argued Lucas gave it too short of notice before authorizing the reallocation and said the move would cause “irreparable harm” to its ability to manage the budget. 

Lucas defended his decision on a recent episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics,” saying citizens were becoming more comfortable with the change as it was discussed more. 

“Anybody who has actually read into it in Kansas City recognizes that it is actually making sure certain things are performed in Kansas City,” Lucas said. “The more we’ve been able to discuss it, folks get it. Folks say, ‘We like intervention officers, we like making sure we have folks working in victim services in KCPD,’ and I think that’s something that is going to do well for Kansas City in the long term.” 

The city responded to the lawsuit last month, filing to have it thrown out of court. Lucas called the allegations in the suit “legally and factually false.” A Jackson County judge issued a stay on the suit the week before. 

Some Republican lawmakers from the city requested an extraordinary session call from Gov. Mike Parson shortly after the announcement to address the change, but Parson has not moved forward with the request.