Legal settlements paid by Kansas City police were twice what was budgeted, records say

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith discusses staffing issues within the police department during a meeting of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners on Sept. 28.
·2 min read

The Kansas City Police Department has paid out $5.8 million in claims over the past fiscal year, blowing past what was budgeted.

Settlements include use of force allegations, vehicular crashes involving officers and other legal matters, according to police records.

The legal claims that have cost the police department twice exceeded the $2.4 million allocated in the department’s 2021-22 budget approved by the Board of Police Commissioners.

The $5.8 million amount was included as a line item in the 2022-2023 budget proposal Police Chief Rick Smith submitted this week to the police board. Smith has requested the department allocate $2.8 million for settlement claims in the next fiscal year.

Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a police spokesman said the funding request is part of the department’s budget process.

“It has several levels of approval to go through before final adoption by the city council next spring,” Becchina said.

Over the past seven years, excessive force claims brought against the police department have led to more than $9.5 million in legal settlements, according to a Star analysis.

Last week, a federal judge approved a $100,000 settlement for a toddler shot in the foot six years ago by an on-duty officer who fired into a fleeing car.

In August, police commissioners agreed to pay $200,000 in a legal settlement to a man severely injured after police fired a tear gas canister during a demonstration against police brutality last summer on the Country Club Plaza.

Community leaders voiced criticism of the department’s use of funds.

“We have been hearing from the department that they’re not able to start new recruiting classes due to the lack of funding for six months now,” said Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2, a local social justice organization.

“Meanwhile we find out they’re spending twice their own budget on payouts due to their own negligence. It’s just one more justification for actions of council and the mayor attempting to have some say over the department’s budget. It’s also one more reason why we need local control. Our taxes are being spent and we have no say on any aspect of it.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas said the department could have the money spent settling claims to pay for additional officers, fund specialty units and other community policing efforts.

“Where did they take the extra $2.4 million for legal settlements, I don’t actually know,” Lucas told The Star. “And that again, is another recruiting class, or that is pay raises for almost all of your people. And these are the sorts of things that I think are buried in the budget document.”

The budget is expected to be discussed at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting next week.

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