KCMO BOPC Meeting Tuesday Expected to Continue Policing Conversation

Brynn Fitzsimmons

6/14/2021- Kansas City, Missouri

6/14/2021 Update: Nathan Garrett, who served on the Board of Police Commissioners announced his resignation on June 14. Garrett, who voiced his opposition to the reallocation, said his resignation was due to a "change in residency." He sent his resignation on Friday, June 11.

Kansas City, Missouri Fraternal Order of Police president Brad Lemon in attendance at the Northland Town Hall in May.

Photo by Andrei Stoica

On Tuesday, June 15, the Kansas City, Missouri Board of Police Commissioners will meet for their first regularly scheduled meeting since the board met May 24 for a special closed session and voted to pursue litigation to block Mayor Quinton Lucas’ new legislation to reallocate police funding.

The first of the two ordinances reallocate $42,282,444 of the Kansas City Police department budget to the Community Services and Prevention Account of KCPD, which is intended to support community initiatives and prevention programs. The second allocates an additional $3 million to the Community Services and Prevention account. It authorizes the City Manager to execute an agreement with the Board of Police Commissioners of Kansas City, Missouri in a total amount not to exceed $45,282,444.00 for community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention, and other public services including recruitment efforts for a new police academy class. The motions passed KCMO City Council 9-4 on May 20.

The BOPC motion to pursue litigation against the ordinance initially passed 3-1, with Lucas voting no and Tolbert absent, at a May 24 meeting. An additional meeting held May 28 added Tolbert to the list of yes votes, resulting in a 4-1 pass.

A May 28 press release from the mayor said the city “reluctantly embraces” the litigation efforts from the BOPC: “While the Board’s lawsuit represents a call for the status quo, under the status quo, we have lost kids like LeGend Taliaferro. Under the status quo, two people were killed on our streets just yesterday. Folks, we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. The status quo is killing us,” the release reads. “As I’ve said before, Kansas City, reluctantly embraces this litigation to shed light on and strike down a system that for generations has been unfair, unconstitutional, and, sadly, unsuccessful."

Gwendolyn Grant of the Urban League has also filed a motion to “intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Board of Police Commissioners in order to assert my constitutional rights as a Kansas City taxpayer and as an African American,” she said in a press briefing on Monday, June 14. She described the BOPC lawsuit as an “attempt to cast off all limits on its ability to take Kansas City’s tax dollars (that) violates the Missouri constitution.”

“This is about taxation without representation. We are taking this fight to the ourt to seek remedy for decades and decades, decades upon decades of injustice,” she said.

Failure of the Status Quo

The mayor’s comments on the failure of the status quo were far from the only sentiments to that effect in recent weeks. At the last BOPC meeting on May 11, during the public comment portion, Tierra Cox—sister of Terrence Bridges, who was killed by a KCPD officer, said her brother was never even given a command to stop before the officer shot him.

“How does KCPD feel having so much blood on their hands? Because how does y’all sleep at night?” she asked. “How do y’all keep this same police on the force, this same chief, when people keep getting killed?”

“I don’t see no good intentions from the police,” she said. “Oh, because you wear a uniform you get the right to kill my brother? No. You don’t got the right—you not God.”

Other speakers, like Odessa Andre of More Squared, tied the issue directly to Police Chief Rick Smith. “Chief Smith has continuously slandered the oath of this force,” she said. “The integrity…of KCPD is rancid.”

Khadijah Hardaway of Justice for Wyandotte also gave public comment. “My soul drug me here,” she said. “My soul said to me that I do not know you, Chief Rick Smith. I do not know you, Pastor Edwards. I do not know you Brad Lemon. I do not know you, Jean Peters Baker. I do not know you, Don Parson. But I do know that you have covered up corruption for far too long.”

“It’s time for you to go, because there are too many Black people…that I continue to see die at your hands with no accountability, with no transparency,” she said. She demanded the police release the videos of the killing of Malcolm Johnson from March 25, at 63rd and Prospect. Local faith leaders later released three videos they had been given by members of the community, noting that those videos contradicted initial police reports.

Sheryl Ferguson of It’s Time 4 Justice also spoke about the lack of accountability or responsiveness from Smith. “It makes me wonder where is the common sense of hearing all the concerns from so many, civil rights and activist organizations, church groups from various religious backgrounds and many citizens who have constantly posed how concerned they are if this Chief is the right person for this position, for this city,” she said.

“Instead of hearing real conversations to speak with these groups and talk to ways to improve his actions, we have only heard the arrogance of ‘I am not going to resign or retire.’ Never asking what can I do better. Instead we get double talk in an answer of what policing model he uses,’” she said. In reference to two common policing strategies, she added, “Unless he is using the Guardian in the North and West regions of the city, but we can tell he is using the Warrior in the areas where the people I care about live. The Bible says a double minded man is unstable in ALL his ways. How much more time and taxpayer money will you continue to waste?”

Mayor’s Reallocation Ordinances Explained

Melesa Johnson, special advisor to Lucas, explained the legislation this way, “First and foremost, I do want to be clear that this is not an effort to defund the police department. We value our officers and the services that they provide to the city. But what this does is it reroutes the money back to the police department with certain parameters on how that money can be spent.”

She said the legislation is in response to the rising crime rate, which has been a longstanding concern for city leadership. “We know from these past five years, we had a constant uptick a crime,” she said. “We've been writing blank checks to the police department. We increased their funding by $8 million last year. We gave them $3 million more this year for a police academy class. All we want to be sure is that city council has some say and how that money is deployed.”

One of the issues, she said, is that city council does not have direct oversight of the police department, since the Board of Police Commissioners, with the exception of Lucas, is appointed by the governor rather than elected by the people. “Since we are the only city in the entire state of Missouri that does not have local control of its police department, this is the only mechanism that we have to have some sort of say on how that money is spent, for example, increased prevention services,” she explained. “We love our officers. We trust our officers. We just want to have some sort of say like every other city in the state of Missouri, and how our taxpayer dollars are being spent to make the city safer.”

Public Hearings Over Reallocation

Several public hearings have been held regarding the reallocation ordinances. One, held May 27 by Northland councilmembers Kevin O’Neill, Heather Hall, Teresa Loar and Dan Fowler.

Speakers said they were afraid to go to the Plaza because of lack of police and stressed the need for “law and order,” claiming the reallocation was reducing funding to police. One speaker, Sandra, said, “We don’t need social justice; we need rule of law where everyone is responsible for their actions.”

President Brad Lemon also spoke, claiming the department was underfunded and that the reallocation of police budget into community programs, even with the additional funding for the police academy class, would further reduce police officers.

“We’re not going to call social workers to protect this city,” he said.

But therapists and social workers like one speaker, who identified herself as Anna, disagreed. She said that, given that “where poverty exists, simultaneously crime increases because of lack of resources,” that the reallocation may help.

“My understanding is that the reallocation of the funding is into community programming for prevention of violent crime, mental health, conflict resolution, different preventative measures, such as education,” she continued.

However, she was not able to finish her statement due to interruptions from the crowd, who eventually shouted at her to the point that she was forced to leave the podium before her time was up.

“I want to hear everybody. That’s what we do up here,” Councilman Dan Fowler said in response to the incident. However, similar responses met others who spoke against the police department or in favor of the Mayor’s ordinances.

Johnson—who came on behalf of Lucas, who could not attend—said in an interview following the meeting that while Northland council members in particular have said they were upset by the same-day passage of Lucas’ ordinances, that same-day adoptions are within the realm of city procedure and policy.

Another meeting, held June 5 by The Kansas City Call, included comments from Lucas and other city councilmembers who had voted in favor of the ordinance.

“You've heard a lot of distortions, right? Some folks have said, ‘Oh, this is defunding the police?’” Lucas said. “Well, as I see the ordinance, and we got to look at it closely, there's a whole bunch of money that can only go to the police department. All we want to be able to do is say at the end of the year, did this help work on efforts relating to prevention and community services? Does this help folks work with our neighborhoods?”

Upcoming BOPC Meetings

The regular BOPC meeting on Tuesday, June 15 will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will include a public comment section. Other upcoming meetings include an Audit Committee Meeting on Friday, June 25 at 10 a.m. and a hearing related to disciplinary proceedings for sergeant Gregory Satter on Friday, July 23 at 9 a.m.

Published on: 6/14/2021