Crime scene tape in the foreground with a blurred police car in the background at a crime scene.

Judge rules in favor of the Kansas City Police Department over City’s budget cut

“The sole legal question before the Court is whether the City violated Chapter 84 in passing Ordinance Numbers 210466 and 210468 after the Board adopted its budget for fiscal year 2021-22.”

By Kathy Feist

The Kansas City Police Department will be reimbursed  $42,282,446 by the City of Kansas City, according to a ruling made today by the 16th District Court of Jackson County, Missouri. 

 “We appreciate the court recognized the validity of the 2020-2021 budget process,” the KCPD said in an issued statement. 

 The funds were stripped away from the police budget on May 20th when Mayor Quinton Lucas and eight City Council members passed two ordinances, one reducing the KCPD budget and the other authorizing the city manager to negotiate with the Board of Police. The funds were instead reserved for community engagement services. 

On May 28th the Police Board filed a lawsuit to overturn the Council’s actions. The suit asked the court to order the return of the $42.3 million and to ban the city from cutting police funding after the Board adopts the Department’s annual budget. It also asked the court to prohibit the city from dictating funding priorities for amounts it gives the Department exceeding the 20 percent of its general revenue required by state law. 

Around 2 pm today, Judge Patrick Campbell entered a judgment on the case. (To read the full ruling click here: 2116-CV11556+Judgment+and+Writ+of+Mandamus_FINAL )

“Based on the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law, it is hereby ORDERED…that respondents and defendants shall return to the Board’s requisitioning authority the $42,282,444 originally appropriated to the Board.” 

The judgment found that the Police Board followed the required steps to submit a 2021/22 fiscal budget as established in Chapter 84, and that the City approved that budget on April 27. 

“The sole legal question before the Court is whether the City violated Chapter 84 in passing Ordinance Numbers 210466 and 210468 after the Board adopted its budget for fiscal year 2021-22,” the judgment reads.

 The Court found that the City did in fact violate Chapter 84 by passing the Ordinances because: 

  1. The Ordinances changed the “authorized expenditures” of the Board through a process not set forth in Chapter 84
  2. The Ordinances changed the “character classifications” of the Board’s budget without the Board’s consent;
  3. The Ordinances “appropriate[d) and disburse[d)” money in a manner not “directed” by Chapter 84; and,
  4. The Ordinances interfere with the Board’s “exclusive management and control” of the Kansas City Police Department.

 “Placing the $42,282,444 in a fund for community engagement services under the requisitioning authority of the City Manager after the Board approved the KCPD budget on April 27, 2021, is an attempt by the City to exert management and control of KCPD as prohibited by Chapter 84,” reads the judgment.

The ruling also found that transferring funds from one classification to another, as done by moving the money to a community engagements fund, without consent of the Board did not fit certain limitations in Chapter 84.  

The judgment did concede that the City has discretion over funds to the KCPD that exceeded 20 percent of the general revenue. “However, the Court finds this discretion must be exercised during the appropriations phase,” it states. 

The ruling received a variety of responses from officials: 

From the Kansas City Police Department: “KCPD engages in the budget process six months ahead of when the budget year begins. The police department puts a great deal of effort into this process as does the city. This budget process directly affects not only the police department and the city, but the members in our community.”

From Mayor Lucas’ office: “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. The City will weigh all options going forward, including appeal.  Given the negative implications of the decision on any mid-year budget adjustments, including those now before Council in the Department’s favor, I will continue to ask the Board of Police Commissioners to increase staffing of law enforcement based on the Department’s current fiscal year budgeting of 1,413 law enforcement positions, with only roughly 1,200 positions filled today.  Council has supported the positions and there is no longer any excuse to be understaffed.”

Sixth District Councilwoman-at-Large Andrea Bough, who voted in favor of the ordinances, was unavailable for comment. Likewise, Sixth District Councilman and Mayor ProTem Kevin McManus, who also voted in favor of the cuts, did not return our phone calls. 

One council member who was available for comment was Second District- at-Large Councilwoman Teresa Loar, a north Kansas City representative who voted against the cuts.  “I feel that the Judge has issued the correct ruling in this case,” she stated. “KCPD has suffered enough with the worry and anguish not knowing if they were going to have enough money to continue to even operate the police department through the end of the year.  This was a reckless move by the Mayor and eight of my fellow Councilmembers. Kansas City Citizens need and deserve adequate police protection.  We were living in a very violent time and place.  Hopefully we can now move forward in a positive direction where the people of this city can feel safe and secure.”

 

 

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