KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas sued the state of Missouri on Wednesday over a new law that requires the city to increase funding for its police department.
The lawsuit filed in Jackson County is the latest salvo in a long dispute between some city leaders and GOP state officials over funding for the police department. Kansas City is believed to be the largest city in the nation to have no control over its police force, an arrangement critics contend is based on racism against the city’s large black population.
Currently, the department is run by a Board of Police Commissioners that includes the mayor and four members appointed by the governor.
In the latest lawsuit, Lucas asks the court to stop enforcement of a law passed earlier this year that requires Kansas City to increase its funding for the police from 20% to 25% of its general revenue.
Kansas City could have to cut funding for other government services by more than $38 million if the law is enforced, according to the suit.
“The sweeping legislation provides no pay guarantees for our officers, will not hire a single police officer, and ignores the will and importance of Kansas City taxpayers, instead attempting to politicize policing in Kansas City at a time when that we urgently need bipartisan solutions to violent crime. Lucas said in a statement.
The Republican-led legislature passed the law without providing any state funding to cover the increase. The lawsuit contends that the new law violates the Missouri Constitution, which includes a provision known as the Hancock Amendment that prohibits unfunded state mandates for cities.
Due to concerns about the law’s constitutionality, the legislature also approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would exclude state mandates to increase police funding from the restrictions of the Hancock amendment. The proposal will go before Missouri voters in November.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners are also named in the lawsuit.
Schmitt’s spokesman, Chris Nuelle, said in a statement that Lucas “has once again put politics before public safety.”
“The Attorney General’s Office will continue to stand with the brave men and women who enforce the law, and we will vigorously uphold the laws of the state of Missouri in this case,” Nuelle said.
The legislature passed the law after Lucas and some councilmembers approved two ordinances that would have designated about $42 million of the police department’s 2021-22 budget for a special fund to promote community engagement and intervention.
The board demanded and a judge later ruled that the city council did not have the authority to change the police department’s spending.
Critics said the city council’s move was a way to “defund” the police department, which city officials strongly denied.
State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican who represents suburban Kansas City counties, was the bill’s main sponsor. He said on Twitter Wednesday that Lucas’ lawsuit “is the latest effort by the city to continue its sweeping quest to defund the police. I am confident that (Schmitt) and the police board will do everything they can to uphold the new law and keep our region safe.”
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