Voters in the state of Missouri recently passed a constitutional amendment to require Kansas City to spend more of its budget on policing.
Amendment 4, which passed with 63% of the votes, was drafted to ensure that Kansas City — which does not have local control over its police department — pays at least 25% of its general revenue to its police department.
Currently, Kansas City spends a minimum of 20% on law enforcement.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a law requiring police budget increases for Kansas City, but it could not go into effect due to prohibitions in the state constitution over unfunded mandates.
Voters across the state overwhelmingly supported the measure, while in Kansas City a majority of residents opposed it.
The language of the amendment asked voters whether the state constitution should be amended to “increase minimum funding for a police force established by a state board of police commissioners to ensure such police force has additional resources to serve its communities.”
Lawmakers say they were also responding to Kansas City officials’ attempts to divert funds from the police department to social service and crime prevention programs.
For example, GOP legislators claimed the city was attempting to defund police in the city.
Republican State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer said the legislation is an effort to support law enforcement in a time of “radical attempts across the country by city councils to defund the police.”
“At this critical moment, we need to make sure that we’re defending our police, not defunding them,” Luetkemeyer said in June. “This bill ensures the brave men and women of this department have the resources they need to protect our city.”
City officials, including Mayor Quinton Lucas, responded by saying the police department is generally funded above the 20% minimum.
Lucas and civil rights leaders, who are suing over the proposal, called the amendment “unconstitutional” and a “power grab” by GOP lawmakers, and blamed false ballot language for deceiving the public.
The mayor also said that Amendment 4 won’t affect public safety.
“In the meantime, I do hope proponents of the amendment pressure the state board to spend any increase on actual officer salaries and benefits, something the board and the legislature seem reluctant to do. Hell of a way to back the blue,” Lucas said.
According to the Kansas City Police Department, there have been 147 homicides in the city this year — up from 134 in 2021.