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EXCLUSIVE: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed an amicus brief opposing Kansas City’s efforts to defund its police department, arguing it is illegal and will have “destructive and deadly” consequences for residents following last year, which recorded the highest rate of murder in the city’s history.
On May 20, the City of Kansas City Council passed several ordinances that effectively defunded the Kansas City Metropolitan Police Department (KCPD), removing $42 million from the police department’s budget and moving the money into a community services fund controlled by the city manager.
The brief, filed Thursday in the case Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners v. Mayor Quinton Lucas, states that the slashing of the city’s law enforcement budget would require eliminating 480 police officer positions and, as a result of diminished police presence, increase violent crime in the streets.
“Kansas City’s shortsighted move to defund their police force will have lasting, destructive and deadly consequences for its residents. Last year, 176 people were murdered in Kansas City, marking the deadliest year in the city’s history,” said Schmitt in a statement to Fox News announcing the filing.
“Despite this grim milestone, the City Council and mayor’s decision defunds critical patrol divisions in areas that saw roughly 80% of Kansas City’s murders last year, and will potentially eliminate approximately 480 sworn officer positions. Attempts to defund the police will deprive Kansas City residents of a needed police presence and exacerbate homicide and violent crime rates plaguing Kansas City and major cities across Missouri and the country.”
In 2020, Kansas City recorded 176 homicides, exceeding the city’s previous record of 153 homicides set in 1993.
The brief also cites instances of skyrocketing crime in Portland, New York and other cities that defunded their police force last year. Portland, which cut its police budget in July 2020, has seen “a more-than-sevenfold increase [in homicides] compared with the first five months of last year.” Across the country in New York City, data shows that after the city cut its law enforcement budget by $1 billion, murders increased by 28.3%.
The Missouri attorney general also argues that the move to slash the KCPD’s budget is illegal under state law.
“Missouri law prohibits the City Council from interfering, in any way, with the Department’s operations and specifically protects the budget from transfers back to the general revenue fund that the [Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners] does not authorize,” the brief states.
Therefore, since KCPD is under the exclusive management and control of the board, the transfer of the $42 million directly violates state law “because it transfers money from a specific classification without the Board’s approval,” Schmitt writes in the brief.
Calls to defund the police and for racial justice amplified last summer, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hand of former officer Derek Chauvin. However, federal and local lawmakers are now revisiting conversations about defunding police departments amid violent crime rates that have been rising since 2020.
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