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Kansas City Council considers controversial plan to slash police funding

Despite soaring murder rates, the City Council in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday announced a proposal that would significantly reduce funding for the city’s police to the minimum allowed by state law and reallocate much of the remaining money to a community fund.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, with the support of several council members, said he introduced two ordinances that will give the city more influence in how the Kansas City Police Department spends its money, along with new crime prevention efforts.

READ: Lucas has another plan to reduce crime with police

“I think it finally gives the people of Kansas City some accountability of policing activities in their city,” he asserted during a news conference. “I hope it compels the police department to engage more actively in a lot of our newer approaches to violence prevention.”

The first measure would amend the fiscal year 2021-22 budget to fund the department the 20 percent — or some $44 million -– minimum of the city general fund revenue, which is the lowest the city can devote to police funding under Missouri law. The remaining money would be diverted to a Community Services and Prevention Fund under the second ordinance.  Those funds are typically distributed to Democrat community activist groups.

Lucas, who is considering a run for the Democrat nomination for a U.S. Missouri Senate seat, insists the plan is not an effort to defund the police but rather seeks collaboration.

“Our plan does not defund,” he tweeted. “It seeks collaboration. It does not ignore the need for police, but it also does not ignore the root causes we must work hard to address. And working together, it funds a new recruit class while making sure we focus holistically on safety.”

His comments drew skepticism and were mocked on social media.

Some city council members who oppose the plan said they were blindsided by the proposals hours before they were announced.

“This is absolutely the worst piece of legislation since I’ve been here at City Hall,” longtime Councilwoman Teresa Loar said, according to KSHB-TV“You take $46 million out of the police budget and who gets hurt the most is our families, our children. How do they stay safe and secure if there are no police around?”

Lucas said he’s seen crime rise, under his term, but has not taken responsibility for his leadership that some say contributed to it.

“I was born in 1984. Since that time, roughly 4,467 Kansas Citizens have been murdered,” he said. “That is more than the Americans that were killed in Afghanistan. That’s more than the Americans killed in the war in Iraq. This has been the greatest disappointment, the greatest challenge for our community for generations.”

The city recorded 176 homicides last year, up from 151 in 2019, according to police figures.  It’s on track to beat that this year.

Kansas City Police Chief Police Chief Richard Smith said the mayor and other council members did not even talk to the department before Thursday’s announcement.

“I am disheartened Mayor Lucas and the other sponsoring council members did not reach out to the Police Department prior to today’s press conference to notify us of such a policy shift,” Smith said. “As a member of the Board of Police Commissioners, the Mayor meets monthly with other Board members, Department members and the public. At these meetings, we discuss performance and statistics from each bureau, including crime, budgets, policy and other matters. The Mayor and the other sponsoring council members have not previously mentioned this proposal, so our discussions about it are just beginning.”

The police department is currently struggling to retain and hire new officers amid a hiring freeze. On his online blog, Smith lamented that the department was losing at least eight police officers each month. He said the department has not had an academy class since early 2020.

“We are down 116 officers and do not have the budget to replace them,” he wrote in a post published on May 14. “In short, our current hiring freeze is setting the Department back in adequate staffing for years to come.”

Lucas has been criticized for playing to both sides during last year’s protests and for a lack of leadership skills and political ambitions.

While supporting the aims of the 2020 protests he also tweeted disdain for actions of many Black Lives Matter antagonists. “Defacing a monument to police officers killed in duty, tearing up public buildings that our primarily black employees are cleaning the next day, throwing explosives at a door to intimidate the lady working by the door at night… None of those actions tell this black man you care about me or my family’s struggle,” he tweeted

But Lucas has also made some startling radical statements on Twitter that have gotten no media attention, aside from conservative circles.

Local conservative pundits say Lucas is a consummate politician who mesmerizes both voters and the media with his demeanor and smooth talking points.

“Kansas City has been hi-jacked by a radical mayor,” stated KCMO 710 talk radio host Chris Stigall on his popular call-in program Friday morning. “I didn’t ever think I would say that.” Stigall devoted most of his show to the topic of Lucas and the police funding.

“Kansas City has a silver-tongued radical for a mayor named Quinton Lucas,” Stigall posted on Facebook. “He is a dangerous politician. The most dangerous kind. One who claims to be a great moderate, free from any particular ideology. In reality, he’s every bit the destructive radical the modern left has become.”

Lucas recently traveled to the nation’s capital and met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Observers say it was an attempt to give him more national media coverage as he weighs a run for the Senate seat held by Republican Roy Blunt.

Lucas, who is not well-known outside Kansas  City,  would add to an already full race of Democrats who are also vying for the spot.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice