,

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The first bill heard in a Senate committee this year is an effort to ramp up how much general revenue Kansas City must allocate to its police department.

From Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican who represents Buchanan and Platte counties, SB 678 would increase Kansas City’s required general revenue spending on its police to 25 percent — up from one-fifth of the general revenue funds.

The bill also specifies what constitutes general revenue: “all revenue collected by the city regardless of whether the revenue is from a tax, fee, or other source of funding and regardless if the revenue is deposited into another fund other than general revenue.”

Luetkemeyer noted Kansas City was ranked the sixth most dangerous city in the U.S. in 2019.

“At this critical moment with public safety a core concern in the metro area, the last thing we need to be doing is stripping money from the police department,” Luetkemeyer told The Missouri Times.

The legislation comes after Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas attempted to reallocate a portion of the police department’s budget to a separate fund for the city manager and Board of Police Commissioners to oversee. The idea was to redirect about $42 million to be used specifically for community engagement, intervention, and other public services.

Republican legislators, including Luetkemeyer, were incensed at the move, calling it a “financial crisis” and expressing concern about how that separate fund would be overseen.

On Tuesday, Luetkemeyer said the mayor’s proposal “will result in fewer officers on the street” and a less safe Kansas City.

But Lucas, who was elected in 2019, testified against Luetkemeyer’s bill, arguing it would result in expensive lawsuits and wouldn’t necessarily support pay increases for law enforcement officials or increase officers in the city.

“This bill’s just got a number of flaws, flaws relating more to the fact that it purports to support rank and file police officers, but it does not. It does not guarantee that $137 million for police salaries will be protected,” Lucas told The Missouri Times in an interview following the hearing. “It does not guarantee that regular pay raises will happen in Kansas City. It does not guarantee that the board won’t continue to spend money in any area unrelated to community policing, on-the-ground policing, and support like I think everybody says we really want to have.”

Lucas also said the way the bill is written, money would be taken from other Kansas City departments. However, Luetkemeyer said it just “makes sure the city is including in its calculation of revenue all sources of revenue.”

The Kansas City mayor said he would be open to talking with Luetkemyer further about the bill.

“We are not allowed to actually take funds from the aviation department … to spend on regular, core functions of the Kansas City budget so I think that change clearly needs to be made, and I hope that’s something that Sen. Luetkemeyer is amendable to or else I think the bill looks like it’s illegal in its current construct and will lead to years of litigation,” Lucas said. “I think that’s the bigger concern I have in terms of what it looks like.”

Kansas City police Chief Richard Smith testified in support of Luetkemeyer’s bill.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.

Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.

She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.

Contact Kaitlyn at kaitlyn@themissouritimes.com.

,
Read MoreFeedzy