Kansas City Smacked Down For Defunding Police

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

With the death of George Floyd, outrage flowed throughout Minneapolis. People were furious at the local police. I could understand that. However, the hatred grew beyond that until every department in the country was supposedly as bad as Minneapolis and was just as responsible for Floyd’s death.

That led to people calling for police departments to be defunded. They wanted money pulled from police budgets and used for other crime prevention programs.

And officials in many places were happy to oblige, though they did so in various ways.

One such place was Kansas City, and a judge was less than impressed by the pandering.

A Jackson County judge ruled Tuesday that Kansas City violated state law when it shifted more than $42 million from the Kansas City Police Department’s budget to other crime prevention efforts.

In May, the City Council passed two ordinances taking $42.3 million directly out of the police department’s budget. The measures committed $45.3 million to be used by the police department for crime prevention, community engagement and outreach.

Those who supported the ordinances explained that it was basically a transfer while increasing the police budget by $3 million.

But the judge disagreed, finding that the city violated state law and ordered the city to restore the funding to the police department.

The police department released a statement after the ruling:

“KCPD engages in the budget process six months ahead of when the budget year begins. The police department puts a great deal of effort into this process as does the city. This budget process directly affects not only the police department and the city, but the members in our community. We appreciate the court recognized the validity of the 2020-2021 budget process.”

In essence, the problem wasn’t in trying to prevent crime through any of these things, it was diverting funding that was already in place to pay for this kind of thing, causing serious disruptions to department operations.

Now, to be fair, this wasn’t really a true “defund the police” thing, primarily because the police department still kept the money. They were just being forced to use it for the exact same things the defund crowd wants it used for. I’m not sure if there’s really much of a distinction worth discussing, though. $42 million is a lot of money to have diverted from officer training, retention, new equipment, and so on. Does it really matter if it technically stayed in-house?

All of that is completely irrelevant now. The court has ruled and that should give the department a bit of room to breathe. However, they’d do well to remember what happened and prepare for this during the next budget cycle.

Unless, of course, the people of Kansas City make it clear to local officials that this isn’t the way.

As we’ve seen all over the nation, these measures meant to prevent crime simply aren’t doing that. Violent crime is soaring in all of these places, which isn’t surprising. Many of these programs take years to show any return on investment. Making it more difficult for the police while diverting that money to programs that won’t start paying off for months and months is a recipe for disaster.

Yet Kansas City will probably try it again unless the voters make it clear they don’t want social experiments in their backyards.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET