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Motion filed to join lawsuit over Kansas City police funding

The president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City filed a motion Monday that she said was intended to represent taxpayers in a lawsuit over proposals to change how part of the city’s police department budget is spent.

Gwen Grant said in a statement that she took the action because the current policing structure does not represent the concerns of Kansas City residents, particularly minorities.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners sued Mayor Quinton Lucas and the City Council last month after the council voted 9-4 to approve ordinances that would move about $42 million of the police department’s budget into a new fund.

The city manager would negotiate with the commissioners on spending those funds, with an emphasis on social services and intervention programs to address violent crime.

The board of commissioners includes four members appointed by the Missouri governor and the city’s mayor. The board controls the Kansas City police department, including its budget. Kansas City is the only major city in the state without control of its police force.

Grant said the current structure represents taxation without representation and violates the state’s Hancock Amendment, which limits state revenues and local taxes. She said it also violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“Enough is enough,” Grant said. “Kansas Citians cannot be made to write a blank check to a Board that does not answer to us, is unrepresentative of our needs, and sues our elected officials when they don’t acquiesce to the Board’s every demand.”

The lawsuit filed by the commissioners argues that state law gives the board exclusive authority over the police department and its budget, which must be at least 20% of the city’s general revenue. Opponents of the ordinances have painted them as being an effort to defund the police.

“This is not about defunding the police,” Grant said Monday. “This is about the police being accountable to the city that they serve. This is about taxation without representation. This is about taking our fight to court to seek remedy after decades upon decades of injustice.”

Commission member Nathan Garrett’s resignation was announced Monday. Garrett, one of the strongest backers of the police department and a vocal critic of Lucas and the proposed budget changes, said he was resigning because he was moving to Smithville, a Kansas City suburb.

Garrett sent his letter of resignation to Gov. Mike Parson on Friday, KSHB-TV reported.

“This department now finds itself at perhaps its most critical moment, and I ask for what I know you will give: focused and considered thought to my replacement,” Garrett wrote to Parson. “May it be one willing to act – informed and thoughtfully – without fear or favor and without regard for political winds or public criticism.”

Earlier this month, a Jackson County Circuit Judge gave the city’s attorneys until this week to respond to the police board’s lawsuit. In the meantime, the city was ordered to continue to funding police operations at present spending levels.

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