According to the most recent Board of Police Commissioners Meeting, the Kansas City Missouri Police Department is now projected to take a 4.3 percent budget cut rather than the proposed 11 percent cut to all city departments in light of COVID-19-related financial concerns. The proposed budget sits at $261.02 million, down from the current fiscal year’s $272.83 million. Other departments show steeper percentage cuts, such as Parks and Recreation going from $70.17 million to a proposed $59.24 million and Public Works going from $144.44 million to a proposed $130.41 million.
This will be KCPD’s first budget cut since 2013, when it took an approximately $6 million cut (2.76 percent). The department’s budget has increased by an average of $9.26 million every year since.
However, Commissioner Nathan Garrett of Graves Garrett LLC said he is still concerned about cuts to the police department budget.
“Let this moment of defund the police have no traction here,” he said in his closing remarks at Tuesday’s meeting. “There is no place for that here. It is utter nonsense. I will continue to advocate for this police department. I will continue to be vocal about the risks that I believe are associated with increased attrition, and our failure to supply.”
He said that while he recognized that the city council and the mayor have to consider budget cut impacts across multiple departments, his job as a commissioner is solely to advocate for the police department.
Garrett asserted that, if anything, rising homicides and other public safety concerns call for more police.
“I'm sure that universities are studying and those test tubes about how we can do more with less, and how what these afflicted communities need is less police not more police,” he said. “But I say bullshit. That's when I say. The fact is we need police officers on these streets.”
Garrett also pointed out the homicide rate for Kansas City, with 19 homicides in January, compared to 21 in January 2020 and 19 in January 2019.
While Deputy Chief Mark Francisco said in his investigative bureau report that the lower homicide rate and higher homicide clearance rate (73 percent for 2020, up from 55 percent in 2019) could be credited to a number of factors, Garrett emphasized more police as the ongoing solution to the current homicide rate—and speculated that Black residents of Kansas City would agree with him.
“Unfortunately, right now, with our homicides here today, in the month of January, we've got about 82 percent African Americans. 82 percent of homicides in one month. It's not my neighborhood, right? Not mine. Police haven't been called to my house since I've lived there 15 years. You know, it's in these areas of town that carry greater risk, those are the ones who are getting most affected by this. If you were to poll them, I suspect law enforcement, support for our police would be pretty damn high. That's what I think. I think it'd be pretty high. They don't up, show up hold signs in their hands, and they don't have bullhorns, but they support the men and women of this department.”
Activists like Steve Young, one of the leaders of the weekly protest outside KCPD headquarters on Friday nights, disagree.
“The Black and brown communities are so tired of being terrorized by Kansas City Police, and not one of you being held accountable. There is no leadership in that building,” he said at the February 5 protest.
Kansas City’s 2019-2020 Citizen Survey data also shows overall satisfaction with KCPD falling consistently since 2014 (vi).
Garrett said residents have told him they’re afraid to express support for the police department. Reverend Darron Edwards expressed similar concerns about public sentiment toward police, noting that Getting to the Heart of the Matter is working to raise funding and expand programming in light of “the vitriolic remarks that were shared, said to our men and women in blue, who stood during the protests on the plaza, knowing that we are facing in a couple of weeks, the beginning of the trial with George Floyd and perhaps similar outcomes from that trial.”
Only one member of the community, Morgan Rainey, offered public comment. He expressed support for police and for Chief Rick Smith, noting that his sister is an officer and that he admired her work.
“I want people to be thrilled to become police officers like my sister,” he said. Rainey also stated his concern about cuts to the budget.
Draft policy for body cams would not require recording during protests
Commissioner and Treasurer Cathy Dean and Mayor Quinton Lucas pushed back on first readings of two draft policies (Project #1322 and 1323) regarding the use of body-worn cameras, which the department is rolling out to officers. Initial drafts indicate that non-evidentiary video will be stored for 180 days—a limit Acting Deputy Chief Greg Dull said is largely due to cost constraints for storage.
Draft policies also listed exemptions for officers turning on body-worn cameras, which Lucas and Dean expressed concerns about. The exemptions included not recording first-amendment protected activities, including protests.
“That sounds to me like you've got a bunch of people about a protest, and none of the officers are using their body cameras,” Dean said. Lucas agreed, emphasizing that all official police contact should be recorded, and that policy wording should clearly set that expectation.
Smith said the draft wording was at the U.S. Department of Justice’s recommendation, and that the department would adjust wording in the next draft of the policy to come before the board.