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The police reform plan offered by Mayor Quinton Lucas immediately set off the wails of anguish that we predicted. “Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer-style coastal liberalism has now invaded the Midwest with @KCMO city council’s vote to defund @kcpolice,” tweeted Missouri state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer. “It’s time to push back if we want to save our city.” Our city? He lives in Parkville. “@KCMO’s proposal to defund @kcpolice is dangerous,” echoed state Rep. Doug Richey of, um, Excelsior Springs. “It looks like #MoLeg needs to respond with a statutory fix to stop this nonsense.” State Rep. Josh Hurlbert of, um, Smithville: “This $47 million cut is radical and, if approved, the #moleg should come back in a special session.” Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon inaccurately called it “defunding” the police. Former state Sen. Ryan Silvey linked Lucas with U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of St. Louis, calling Lucas “Pinocchio.” City Council member Teresa Loar said it was the “worst piece of legislation” she has ever seen. And so on. It is too much to ask these politicians and others, almost all Republicans from north of the river, to think just a little bit about what actually happened? Lucas and eight council colleagues decided to take a little more than $42 million from the existing Kansas City Police Department budget. Then they said the money can only be redirected, contractually, into different department programs for prevention, intervention, mental health and the like. They also added $3 million to the police budget for a new recruiting class. The department could have more money in 90 days than it had on Wednesday. The two ordinances were sold as a way to bring accountability to a police department misgoverned by a state-appointed board. But the measures will also — and this is what opponents miss — force locally-elected officials, for the first time in memory, to assume explicit responsibility for solving the city’s crime problem. Let’s state this plainly. Mayor Lucas, and the eight council members who joined him, are now on the hook for the city’s murder crisis in a way that they weren’t before. Now that they are forcing change and taking responsibility, they can and should be held accountable. And accountability is what has been absurdly missing from the Kansas City Police Department for decades. Chief Rick Smith has not reduced murder rate When homicides hit a record last year, we joined other groups in calling on Police Chief Rick Smith to resign, or be fired. What happened? He’s still on the job, untouchable by the people who pay his salary. Two members of the state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners are serving expired terms. They’re untouchable, too. Can Kansas Citians blame the mayor and council for crime problems? Until their vote Thursday, elected officials played no real role in department decisions. They couldn’t even require officers to live in the city. State control of the police department has, over decades, left the city with a police force utterly unanswerable to the public. When beleaguered residents complain to the police board, they are met with stone silence. The whole community complaints process is a joke. That has to change, and that change has started. Loar, fellow council member Heather Hall and others think the funding decision was horrible. Fine. Let them run for mayor in 2023. Let them make the case. Let the people decide. Lucas will have a record, and he can be judged on that basis. In the meantime, calls for a special session in Missouri to address these issues are laughable. Nothing says “colonialism” like state legislators telling Kansas City what it can and can’t do with its most important function. Two years ago we begged Gov. Mike Parson to convene a special session that would give Kansas City tools to address violent crime. Nah. We got a special session on car sales taxes instead. Now lawmakers obsessed with nullifying federal gun laws are furious that Kansas City wants to take responsibility for its own problems. You’d swear they don’t believe in accountability.
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