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Kansas City: Lawsuit over police funding is ‘false flag’

June 22, 2021 GMT

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A lawsuit seeking to stop Kansas City from rerouting a portion of the police department’s budget plants a “false flag” by suggesting the city council is trying to take control, city officials said in a court motion filed Tuesday.

The motion filed in Jackson County Court is the latest move in a legal battle that began when the city council approved an ordinance in May to move about $42 million of the police department’s budget into a new fund. That money would be used to fund social services and intervention programs in response to Kansas City’s high crime rate.

The state-controlled Board of Police Commissioners sued the city, the city council, Mayor Quinton Lucas and other city officials, contending the change violates state law that gives the board complete control over the police department. The board also filed a motion asking a Jackson County judge to order the city to return the $42 million to the board’s control.

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A second ordinance passed in May would require the city manager to negotiate with the board over how the new fund is spent. Generally, the board dictates how the police department operates and how its money is spent.

Kansas City is the only major city in Missouri that does not have control of its police department. The commission consists of four members appointed by the governor and the mayor.

The city is required by law to allocate 20% of its general revenue funds to the police department. In the motion, the city argues it meets that obligation even after moving the $42 million.

“The Board has planted the false flag that, by passing (the ordinances) the City has somehow attempted to wrest control of the police force from the Board,” the city’s motion reads. “This is not true. The City has done nothing to tell the Board what to pay, who to pay, or when to pay it. It has not established another police force; it has not appropriated monies outside of (state law); it has not refused to pay expenditures up to the statutory limitations imposed by (the law.)

City officials contend nothing in the law prevents the city from adjusting previous allocations given above the 20% requirement, which it has done more than 60 times.

Opponents of the ordinances argue they are a way of defunding the police and would prevent the city from hiring more officers to respond to and investigate crimes.

Lucas said in a statement that the commissioners and other opponents of the ordinances, including some state lawmakers, have refused to work with city and police officials and community leaders to find solutions to the Kansas City’s high crime rate.

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“The unelected Police Board’s suit is not about protecting the brave women and men in the rank and file of our police department, nor is it about making the community safer,” Lucas said. “The suit is the Board’s effort to preserve their power and the power of (the state) over our local affairs, while Kansas Citians continue to suffer unconscionably high rates of crime in too many of our neighborhoods.”

Last week, Gwen Grant, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, filed a motion as a private citizen to join the lawsuit on behalf of city taxpayers. She argued that the current structure for control of the police department is “taxation without representation” for Kansas City residents, particularly those in mostly minority neighborhoods that suffer the most crime.

In Tuesday’s motion, the city asked the court to deny the board’s petition to have the fund’s returned. They also asked that the city council members be removed from the lawsuit as individuals and argue the city council cannot legally be sued, which would leave the city as the sole defendant.