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KCMO finance committee debates police funding, accountability ahead of budget talks – KSHB 41 Kansas City News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee once again took up police funding in their meeting Wednesday ahead of the full council voting on the proposed budget for the new year.

Fourth District-at-Large Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who chairs the committee, introduced an amendment during Wednesday’s committee meeting that aimed to take $33 million of Community Policing and Prevention Fund money away from Board of Police Commissioners control and place that money in the hands of the city council.

Shields summarized the amendment as placing the money in a “Police and Anti-Violence Grant Fund” where KCPD would have to present grant requests to the city to access the money, and, should the department not actively pursue the money, outside organizations could access the money with grant applications.

The amendment came on the heels of Mayor Quinton Lucas announcing his proposal of ordinance 220.216, which would leave that $33 million in the hands of the police department but would require them to layout ahead of time how the money would be used.

Taking control of money allocated for policing from the Board of Police Commissioners, a board appointed by the state and not locally has been a topic of contention over the past year within Kansas City.

Shields’ amendment to ordinance 220.199 looked similar to a tactic the city used in late 2020 to take control that a judge later struck down following BOPC lawsuits.

RELATED: The battle over KCPD funding, local control

Lucas (a member of the BOPC but who has also voiced concern over state control) said in Wednesday’s meeting that the amendment would undo what has been worked on in the past year.

Several police representatives echoed the thought, with Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon suggesting a focus on the future rather than a focus on the past.

Officers currently on the force expressed concern that removal of access to the $33 million could result in the disbandment of some specialty units within the department and could be detrimental to work against violent crime in the city.

Members of advocate groups like More2 and the Urban League of Greater Kansas City supported the amendment, saying the board has continued to fail to hire the promised number of officers and called the department “failed.” Therefore, they believe the department does not deserve the money.

Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson pointed out that the goal of the amendment is not to defund the police.

However, she pointed out that Lucas’ ordinance requiring the BOPC to outline how funds would be used is not legally binding and that the department wouldn’t necessarily have to follow what they outline.

Lucas, who has held a city office since 2015, said he would take some heat for passing police budgets in the past that the city council didn’t fully understand.

“(We) understand a heck of a lot more today,” he said. “We understand where salaries are going.”

Robinson countered that the amendment would allow a real-time avenue to address adding additional governance to the police department without waiting for the next budget year.

Lucas said that while that may be the case, the amendment lacked clarity for when requests made could be met.

Ultimately, the committee failed to secure the four votes needed to advance the amendment and ordinance 220.199 was advanced without that portion.

The committee did advance Lucas’ ordinance 220.216 and it will be heard in front of the full council Thursday when they meet to finalize the budget for the upcoming year.

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