Missouri voters will decide if state can dictate Kansas City police funding boost • Missouri Independent

If Missouri voters approve Amendment 4 in the Nov. 8 general election, Kansas City will need to increase funding for its police department.

But many voters may not understand this from the language they will see on the ballot.

Amendment 4 reads: “Should the Missouri Constitution be amended to authorize laws, passed before December 31, 2026, that increase the minimum funding for a police force established by a state board of police commissioners to ensure that this police force has additional resources to serve its communities?”

There’s only one police department in Missouri, and possibly the country, that’s controlled by the state, not local city government officials — and that’s the police department. Kansas City Police.

A new law passed this year aims to increase the minimum share of Kansas City’s budget that must be spent on the police department from 20% to 25%, an increase of $65.2 million.

However, the Missouri constitution states that the legislature cannot require a city to increase any activity or service beyond what is required by applicable law, unless a state appropriation is available. be made to pay the city for any increased costs.

Led by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, lawmakers also adopted a proposed constitutional amendment this spring, which would provide an exception for Kansas City police, if approved by voters in the state.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the city council already regularly funds the police department above the 25% threshold, so the new mandate will not immediately increase the police budget.

“Instead, the bill represents the crude exercise of power by state legislators over the people of Kansas City, as the only people in our state without the ability to influence how a quarter of our budget is spent,” Lucas said in a statement after the governor signed the bill.

Lucas was referring to the fact that Kansas City is the only city in the state where local elected officials, by law, have virtually no authority over how the police department’s budget is spent. A Board of Commissioners appointed by the Governor makes these decisions.

Lütkemeyer pushed for increased funding after Lucas and some city council members tried to designate $42 million in the police budget for things like community engagement and response. A judge eventually ruled they didn’t have that authority.

“When a majority of City Council voted to cut $42 million from KCPD’s budget in 2021, I knew I had to do something to prevent future police funding efforts,” Luetkemeyer said in a statement. statement after signing the invoice.

Lucas argues that it’s not the council members who have repeatedly “defunded” police salaries – this is the Board of Commissioners.

In August, Lucas filed a complaint against the state, arguing that the law requiring the city to spend more on police is unconstitutional.

“The sweeping legislation provides no wage guarantees for our officers,” Lucas said, “won’t hire a single police officer and ignores the will and importance of Kansas City taxpayers, instead trying to politicize maintaining the order in Kansas City at a time when we badly need bipartisan solutions to violent crime.

A spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a named defendant in the lawsuit whose office will represent the state, said Lucas put “politics ahead of public safety.”

“The Attorney General’s Office will continue to support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and we will vigorously defend Missouri state laws in this case,” Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle said. “The people of Missouri deserve to feel safe in their communities, and we will continue to fight to make sure they do.”

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