Public Safety by the Numbers in Kansas City Missouri

Brynn Laurel

9/17/2020- Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Missouri police in the Country Club Plaza at the beginning of the George Floyd protests

Photo by Andrei Stoica

The list of taxpayer-funded initiatives enacted in the name of “public safety” in Kansas City, Missouri is a long one, and the numbers under that umbrella give a snapshot of what public safety means. Last year, Kansas City made the Safewise list as one of the most dangerous cities in America. Although it has fallen off Statewise’s list this year, it still ranks near the bottom for safe cities in Missouri.

The public safety line item for the KCMO budget is the $272.87 million police budget ($272.92 million submitted for FY 2020-2021)—more than ten times the mental health services budget and more than four times the entire health budget and more than three times the Neighborhoods and Housing Services budget for KCMO. This budget overwhelmingly supports policing, including administration and patrol, with a small percentage going to training (including CIT training) or youth community programs.

However, public safety as a broader concept might also include things like access to mental health resources, as in the $250,000 ($500,000 submitted) for the FY 2020-2021 KCMO budget. Aside from funding mental health to support community wellness, multiple studies indicate that funding mental healthcare can reduce violent behavior in schools, crime, and recidivism—all public safety issues.

This conception of public safety as something beyond rates of crime and police support is something reflected in national data as well (see Safewise’s discussion of socioeconomic factors in safety, for example).

In fact, Safewise’s 2020 report on the most dangerous cities indicates that dollar amounts matter not just in terms of public safety dollars, but also in terms of community services dollars, with the safest cities allocating an average of three times more to community services than the most dangerous cities do.

Nor are city budget numbers the only ones to consider. Nonprofits, such as the local Hero Fund USA, a 501(c)(3), also invest under the umbrella of “public safety” through, per their website, funding the purchase of “items that will ensure greater safety and well-being to police, fire and EMS personnel.” In 2020, this support has included both support for the family of Firefighter Chuck McCormick in West Peculiar and the purchase of a drone for Benton county Sheriff’s Department. Kansas City, Missouri Police Department received funding from The Hero Fund USA at the end of last year toward training resources. The Hero Fund USA recently held their Telethon fundraiser with broadcasting from KCTV5.

The Police Foundation of Kansas City has undertaken similar projects, funding ALPR systems, cameras, and equipment, a staff psychologist, and officer training in 2020.

In addition to assistance from nonprofits, city funding to the police department both accounts for the largest portion of the city budget after water services and has steadily increased over the last several years. In the same time, funding for some other public safety measures have also risen, while others have remained static. Meanwhile, violent crime continues to rise.

Published on: 9/17/2020