KC Voices: Missouri taxpayers should be extremely concerned about Amendment 4

Establishing further state control in place of city power is a slippery slope.
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We’ve been asking members of the KC community to submit stories about their thoughts and experiences in all walks of life. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share with our readers, please send it to brock@thepitchkc.com for consideration. Today, former UMKC student Hayley Veilleux breaks down the complicated implications of Missouri’s upcoming Amendment 4 vote.

KC Voices local submissions

Illustration by Jack Raybuck

KC Voices local submissions

Amendment 4: The Rundown

Amendment 4 is on the November 8 ballot. If it passes, it would require, by Missouri state law, that Kansas City must spend no less than 25% of its general revenue on its police department, as opposed to the currently required 20%. 

Kansas City Mayor, Quinton Lucas—the only member of the KC Board of Police Commissioners that is not appointed by the state—has said that the board already regularly, and willingly, funds its police department above the required minimum. 

If you’ve never heard of a state police board, this is because they are virtually unicorns in state governments. Kansas City is the only major Missouri city, and the largest US city, that does not have any say in how its police department is operated and funded; and while a board of 5 state-appointed members has complete authority over the police force, it’s the city’s residents that provide the dollars (roughly 269 million as of this year).

The Deception

KCPD asserts that increasing the minimum required funding will ensure the department has additional resources to serve the community. The hypocrisy of this statement is that vital social services—such as infrastructure maintenance, fire protection, mental health services, and community outreach programs—will be cut in order to fund a department that’s had untouched balances for years. 

The police department’s 2022 budget alone has more than 13 million in taxpayers’ money laying idle in their bank account; yet Missouri politicians have the audacity to claim the city is attempting to defund its police, bleeding them dry. This is no more than a political talking point to mislead voters and further disenfranchise the city’s residents who have no voice in how their tax money is spent.

Mayor Lucas is a staunch supporter of law enforcement and is often criticized for this stance. What he doesn’t agree with, however, is the lack of accountability within the department. “The saddest part to me,” he said during our phone conversation earlier this week. “Is that it has nothing to do with making the people of Kansas City safer. It would be one thing if this led to police officers getting higher salaries; it does not… This is very simply an effort by the state legislature to marginalize the people of Kansas City, and let them know that they don’t have the same respect that every other Missourian does.”  

The very nature of this proposal is misleading to everyone. Leftists, Libertarians, and Conservatives all favor limited government intervention, yet this proposal is the essence of government overreach. Many Kansas City leaders have noted the colonial roots from which the board of police commissioners stems, including both Mayor Lucas and Gwen Grant, President and CEO of Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

Gwen Grant explained to me that “State control of the board of police comissioners is rooted in the attempt to protect the institution of slavery during the Civil War. There was a Confederate-leading governor of Missouri at the time,” she said. “And he wanted to ensure that the state held control over the arsenal in Kansas City and St. Louis—the two largest cities in the state; also the cities with the highest population of Black people.”

Early in my conversation with Mayor Lucas, unprompted, he also commented on the relationship between the police board and KC’s large Black population, noting that the presence of a state-governed police board “sends a message that the people of Kansas City can’t be trusted to self-determine in ways that every other community in Missouri can.”

The Hancock Amendment AKA why we all should be concerned

Gwen Grant has been actively challenging the Board of Police Commissioners since she filed a lawsuit against them in 2021, as well as in leading the effort that called on the DOJ to investigate KCPD earlier this year.

Gwen Grant’s lawsuit against the KC Board of Police Comissioners is in relation to the Hancock Amendment through the constitution. She informed me she is challenging the legitimacy of forcing Kansas Citians to pay for a police department we have no authority over, maintaining that “If the state is mandating us to pay [a sum greater than the required minimum], they should pay for it.”

If Amendment 4 passes, it will essentially bypass The Hancock Amendment—a 1980 constitutional amendment that places taxing and expenditure restrictions on the state government. Grant explained to me that “Right now, the Hancock Amendment says that any increase in taxation would require the state to fund it. Amending this places an exception to the Missouri constitution that gives [the government] the freedom to do what they want.”

Grant highlighted the fact that the average voter will come to the ballot assuming that raising police funding is a good thing, believing that it only concerns Kansas City. However, they are missing a vital aspect of this amendment that is not included in its vague and misleading language. “An issue that should concern all Missouri citizens,” she explained. “Is that it creates a dangerous exception [to the constitution]. If this passes, it can lead to other constitutional amendments that can harm all local governments and taxpayers by creating unfunded mandates on them.” 

The amendment would only affect Kansas City as of right now, but it would set a precedent for other municipalities as well. Any person who considers themself to be fiscally conservative, or is opposed to government overreach, should be deeply concerned by this measure. Amendment 4 allows for a future where more Missouri cities will be permitted less power at the hands of the state government.


If this amendment passes, Kansas Citians will pay the price, literally, but also in terms of inadequate public services; and let us not evade the elephant in the room. We’d be relinquishing even more power to an organization with a very bad report card. 

A 2021 study by the Police Scorecard revealed Kansas City’s poor standing among the rest of the nation’s police departments. According to the project’s website, “[The Scorecard] calculates levels of police violence, accountability, racial bias and other policing outcomes for… nearly 100% of the US population.” The study was conducted based on publicly available datasets. Of 500 police department scores, Kansas City was ranked 474th—worse than Minneapolis, Baltimore, and New York City. If KCPD were a first-grader, their teacher would be calling their parents regularly.

A highlight reel of KCPD’s conduct this year (so far)

  • Earlier this year, a former Kansas City police officer was sentenced to six years of prison time for the murder of Cameron Lamb (which took place in 2019). He was a Black father and son whose life became another statistic in less than ten seconds—the amount of time between the officer entering Lamb’s property and opening fire.
  • Last year, a Black Kansas City DEA officer—a 16-year veteran of the force—was demoted for reporting his colleague who had conducted an illegal search. This past August he filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners—one of several lawsuits currently active against the Board.
  • In September, KCPD was put under federal investigation following a year-long investigation by the Kansas City Star, which revealed that Black officers were consistently subjected to racial slurs, derogatory comments, and unfair discipline by their White colleagues and supervisors. Gwen Grant and others have also played a large role in bringing forth the investigation, having brought their concerns of systemic racism to the attention of the Department of Justice.
  • A police officer was suspended from his job earlier this year and was recently sentenced to 5 years of probation for collecting money for shifts he did not work.  Meanwhile, a Kansas City police sergeant is expected to plead guilty next month for assaulting a teenager back in 2019. The “assault” in this case was the smashing of a 15-year-old boy’s face into a fast food parking lot by forcefully kneeling on the child’s head. The incident resulted in several broken teeth and a gash in his head that required 8 stitches. The boy was heard pleading “I can’t breathe.” The sergeant is still employed by the Kansas City Police Department.
  • I probably don’t need to mention KCPD’s blatant disregard for citizens’ reports of missing young Black girls, but for any non-Kansas-City resident who may be reading this, I will. Everyone else: feel free to skip this section.

The story goes something like this: In September, a video of Bishop Tony Caldwell of Eternal Life Church & Family Living Center goes viral on Tik Tok and Twitter. In it, Caldwell expresses his deep frustration that members of his community are not being listened to about what appears to be a serial killer targeting young Black girls in an area near Prospect avenue.

After the videos circulated on social media, the public put pressure on the police department to address the matter, and only then did KCPD release a statement: “We want to make the public aware this claim is completely unfounded. There is no basis to support this rumor,” a spokesperson said.

Just weeks after the police publicly dismissed the “rumors”, a 22-year-old Black woman escaped from an Excelsior Springs home. She’d been held captive in a man’s basement where he’d kept her restrained with handcuffs, tortured and raped her over the period of a month.

The victim said she was picked up from Prospect Avenue in early September, and that her “friends didn’t make it.” Currently, no other women or bodies have been discovered. Excelsior Springs police claim there is no evidence linking the kidnapping to any Kansas City missing persons cases, but in the eyes of many Kansas Citians, the evidence appears to be placed at our feet, wrapped and topped with a bow.

In review

This ballot measure is not a case study on Back the Blue vs. ACAB, though many proponents of the amendment like to present it as such. The issue of policing has become highly politicized when in reality, the desire for public defenders and governments to uphold our basic freedoms is a value shared across party lines. 

Police departments have the opportunity to serve as an invaluable community resource as their very occupation is to support and defend the constitution of the United States, as well as to “bear truth and allegiance to the same.” Voting no on Amendment 4 is not an attempt to defund the police. Anyone who touts this claim will be getting more than coal for Christmas, as a “No” vote will not decrease the department’s current funds by even a penny. 

With the election just around the corner, it’s vital that we all raise awareness of this measure, make certain to check our voting location, and most importantly: VOTE. If you are busy on election day, you can vote now if you like—no reason necessary. And if you are interested in canvassing or volunteering in other ways, send an email to community organizer, Amaia Cook at acook@ulkc.org

Help make the statement to Missouri legislature that we, residents of the Show Me State, value our communities and right to local governance. That we believe in true Democracy. Voting no on Amendment 4 is to ensure that all Missouri citizens will coexist with law enforcement that serves their community—not the state government—for years to come.

Categories: Politics