Kansas City mayor sues to block Missouri law requiring higher police spending

By: - August 17, 2022 6:23 am
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas speaks at a vaccine clinic

A lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, challenges a new state law increasing funding for city police (photo courtesy of Missouri Governor's Office).

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced Wednesday that he will file a lawsuit against the state of Missouri arguing a new law requiring the city to spend more on police is unconstitutional. 

The law, approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Mike Parson this year, raises the portion of Kansas City’s budget that must be devoted to the police department from 20% to 25%.

The Missouri Constitution prohibits the state from requiring a city to increase an activity or service beyond that mandated by existing law, unless the state covers the cost. Lucas argues the new police funding requirement violates that constitutional prohibition. 

In May, state legislators acknowledged the potential constitutional issue. They passed a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by the voters in November, would provide an exception for the Kansas City Police Department. 

“The radical legislation provides no pay guarantees for our officers,” Lucas said, “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 we sorely need bipartisan solutions to violent crime.”

A spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a named defendant in the lawsuit whose office will represent the state, said Lucas is putting “politics over public safety.”

“The Attorney General’s Office will continue to support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and we will vigorously defend the laws of the state of Missouri in this case,” said Chris Nuelle, Schmitt’s spokesman. “Missourians deserve to feel safe in their communities, and we will continue to fight to ensure that they are.”

Kansas City is the only city in the state where the local elected officials, by law, have almost no authority in how the police department’s budget is spent. A board of commissioners appointed by the governor makes those decisions.

As mayor, Lucas serves as the fifth member of the state board. 

The push for the funding increase was inspired by a move from local elected officials last year that generated outrage among Republicans.

Last year, Lucas and some city council members attempted to designate $42 million within the police budget for things like community engagement and intervention — but a judge ultimately ruled they didn’t have that authority.

The new law is estimated to increase city spending by $64 million. Lucas said that will require cuts in other departments. 

“…conservative legislators did nothing for our officers,” Lucas said, “but now pretend to support the police by creating a policy that ultimately will defund our firefighters, defund our parks and defund road repair in Kansas City.”

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has spent two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, with most of that time focused on the Missouri statehouse as a reporter for The Kansas City Star. A three-time National Headliner Award winner, he helped launch The Missouri Independent in October 2020.