Kansas City Mayor Sly James on Tuesday lashed out at police officials’ repeated demands for more money.
The takedown came during what was supposed to be a brief budget discussion during the monthly Kansas City police board meeting Tuesday. James said city workers are being forced to curb spending — and the police department must do the same.
“You want more money, you want more officers, find more inefficiencies in how the money is being used,” he said. “I kind of get tired of this banging on the city crap when at the end of the day I don’t see anybody coming up with any solutions.”
The Police Department and other public safety areas are slated to get $14.3 million more than what they received a year ago, a 3.3 percent increase. Public safety spending accounts for more than 76 percent of the city’s entire operating budget.
But the increase is less than what the department asked for to hire more patrol officers and emergency call takers, police board president Leland Shurin said at the meeting Tuesday.
“Crime is going up and the numbers of officers have gone down over the last few years and we have got to turn it around,” Shurin said. “I understand that there are other things that the city has got to do, believe me.”
That set James off.
“Have you seen the budget that’s on the table now?” James asked Shurin. “So you don’t even know what’s been offered to the Police Department.”
Shurin quietly said he had, but didn’t have a chance to elaborate. Two other police board members present remained silent.
“There’s a whole lot of stuff in this city that needs to be done,” James said. “And I understand there are needs all around but there’s also people that get laid off as a result of increases in the public safety budget that are not public safety people.”
The city and the Police Department recently consolidated their information technology departments, which should help save money. James said that was a good start but more is needed.
“If you want more money, find more ways to be efficient just like we have to do because we keep giving more and more money to public safety, and in order for us to do that we have cut things on the city side in order to get that done,” James said. “That never seems to matter in these discussions.”
Last week, the city’s budget proposal projected additional spending on public safety. Included is a proposed $5.6 million boost to police spending to add 15 additional patrol officers and eight emergency call takers.
The city-proposed funding for the Police Department was based on the recommendations from a recent police staffing study that called for more patrol officers and 911 operators, said Kansas City Councilwoman Alissia Canady.
“But at some point this board and the body of this department is going to have to figure out ways to make do with what you do have to address the need,” she told the police board.
The city’s budget proposal calls for pay increases for officers and civilian workers employees that is part of their collective bargaining agreements.