The day before several Civil Rights organization leaders came together to address the policing crisis in Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas appeared on CBS morning show Face the Nation to speak about surging Covid-19 numbers in Missouri.
The conversation covered the health crisis facing the metro and expanded to a broader discussion on the homicide rate in Kansas City. When prompted, Lucas blamed the city’s gun violence on the prevalence of firearms trafficking and spoke of wanting federal agencies back in the city in a move that echoed 2020’s unpopular, unsuccessful program Operation Legend.
A few minutes into their conversation, host John Dickerson asked Lucas about an increase in homicides during his tenure as mayor and the most significant factors in the increase. Lucas responded that firearms trafficking presents the greatest difficulty, and followed it up with a faux-cautionary talking point:
I will note something in my state and it’s happening in more American states, red states in the South and the Midwest. They’ve passed new laws that prohibit or make it a crime for our local law enforcement to work with federal agencies on certain issues, particularly as it relates to gun trafficking. We’re running into more and more hurdles in terms of how we fight violent crime in our major cities. These are things that have not been helpful in turning around this crisis. We will continue to work with our young people and opportunities and everything under the sun. But most of our murders are committed by firearms. We have too many flooding the streets of our city, too many that are sold illegally in gun shows and we need to make sure that we limit that.
Though there’s a lot to be said about what exactly gets classified as “violent crime,” the world’s largest arms manufacturers, like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, produce weapons primarily for the US government and, according to the UN, a significant number of guns–if not the majority–come from government stockpiles.
Lucas uses the issue of gun violence to not only reinforce and sustain the system overwhelmingly creating these weapons but to invite more feds to Kansas City after a significant wave of protests and critiques of Operation Legend, a 2020 initiative condemned last year by a similar coalition of Civil Rights orgs.
Operation Legend, another simple “request for assistance” from Mayor Lucas, turned into the Trump administration manufacturing a War-on-Drugs-style attack east of Troost, primarily targeting and devastating Black communities. Lucas attempted to distance this call from the last by emphasizing the Biden administration’s better cooperation: “When they’re working with us, they call us in advance. We have a chance to have a long conversation about what our cities need.
We’re not just sending federal agencies and federal forces in to say, you must take this.” After significant community criticism of the racist, classist violence of Operation Legend last year, Lucas attempted to lie about having been the one to request government assistance. When it comes to Mayor Lucas’s understanding of what causes violence in this city, better cooperation will be even more lethal for marginalized communities.
For Lucas, gun violence does not include the murders cops have committed in Kansas City, nor the astounding amounts of violence and harassment that police and federal agents create with the power and security of their firearms.
The 15-page letter released yesterday by The Urban Council (local chapters of the Urban League, SCLC, More2, National Black United Front, and NAACP) documents the excessive use of force against Black and Latinx people that has become commonplace for KCPD. The letter details dozens of murders, beatings, and wrongful arrests by KCPD and addresses the complete impossibility of working with the system not to get justice but to simply file complaints.
Beyond this, the letter details the everyday harassment Black people face at the hands of KCPD–23% more likely to be stopped in a vehicle, 65% more likely to be searched, ticketed for jaywalking at twice the rate. Large settlements for police violence are chronicled as well, including a $4.8 million settlement for Philippe Lorca in 2017 and another out of court settlement for $1.5 in 2018–both for actions by the same cop, Dakota Merrill.
After a year of protests about the city’s bloated $273 million policing budget, Lucas has done nothing to respond to community requests for better funded healthcare, education, and housing. During the interview, Lucas laments the loss of several significant community programs, uncertain about how they will continue during Covid, but he has sought to recycle last year’s fruitless collaboration with federal forces instead of choosing to put time and energy into reconceptualizing community programs and aid.
Many issues sit at a crisis point with lack of support and attention, and the threat of Covid-19 is especially hazardous for families with students headed back to school and members of the houseless community, many of whom recently moved back to the streets after the city stopped providing hotel rooms. Considering all of this, Quinton Lucas prioritizing policing and federal agents will be the most lethal act of violence to hit Kansas City in the coming months.
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