KANSAS CITY, Missouri (KCTV) — On Tuesday afternoon, lawyers for the City of Kansas City and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners will appear before a Jackson County Circuit Court judge.
The board filed suit against the city last week over a recent change to the police budget. The board says the city’s recently passed ordinances that circumvent the current funding structure are in violation of state law.
There’s no guarantee the judge will start hearing evidence on the most pressing piece, which is a request for an injunction that would temporarily return the $42 million removed by the city, but the clock is ticking loudly because the changes made by the city happened after the current fiscal year was already underway.
The swift move eleven days ago by eight of 12 council members and the mayor was contentious from the start, with four opposing members from the Northland feeling railroaded.
“This is wrong!” Councilman Dan Fowler shouted on the council floor.
The two ordinances were passed without being referred to committee. The first ordinance retroactively reduced the police budget to the minimum required by state law by removing $42 million, then placed it in a fund to be negotiated in a contract between the city and the Board of Police Commissioners. The second ordinance provided an additional $3 million for a new academy class.
A week later, residents lashed out as well.
“That is the exact reason there should not be local control, if these kinds of actions are going to happen!” resident Tim Johnson declared at a public forum, met with cheers of applause
Local control is a concept that rules every police department in the nation except the KCPD.
For almost a century, lawmakers in Jeff City have granted the state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners exclusive authority over how the police budget is spent.
“You have no voice in it. That is unconscionable in many ways,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas on the day the board voted to sue. “I don’t think there’s a judge in America that would stand up for that.”
The mayor and his supporters say the move is an effort to take an active role in crime prevention.
“Once and for all, to have some level of change,” is how the Lucas phrased it, adding, “The status quo does not work.”
The board’s lawsuit claims the method he and his allies used to buck the status quo is a violation of state law.
The suit notes that when the money was removed, it itemized what funds were being removed, but it didn’t itemize what would be included in the replacement fund described only as “Community Services and Prevention.” That, the mayor has said, is because that replacement fund still needed to be negotiated.
The lawsuit claims the city is in violation of state law by “re-classifying budgeted funds without Board approval,” and their ordinances “hinder and obstruct the Board’s control of the police department budget.”
The suit claims a June 10th deadline is fast approaching for the next month of expenses to be reconciled.
The city has had precious little time to file its response in court, with the suit filed on Friday before a three-day weekend, and a hearing on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
That response hasn’t appeared in court records yet. A court ordered the city to file a response by June 1st, but it’s not uncommon for a respondent to seek more time.
Here’s a breakdown of the timeline leading up to this action as presented in the lawsuit:
March 25th: City appropriated $224 million dollars to the PD
April 27th: Board adopted an itemized police department budget of $224 million
May 1st: Expenses began under the new fiscal year’s budget.
May 20th: New ordinances approved moving money from previously approved budget.
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