Kansas City Council takes a stand against hate with new penalty for offenses

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Kansas City, Mo. – In Kansas City, if someone breaks a city law for reasons based on hate, they might now get up to 60 more days in jail. This new rule was agreed on by the city council, making it their first big law of the year.

The law focuses on crimes done because of negative feelings towards someone’s race, skin color, religion, where they’re from, gender, who they like, how they identify themselves, or if they have a disability. If the city’s lawyer shows that the crime was done for these reasons, the judge can make the person’s jail time longer.

Council member Andrea Bough from the Sixth District pushed for this law because she saw how important it was to have rules against hate crimes in the city.

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“It’s something that I think is very important that we ensure that those offenses that might fall through the cracks are met with the seriousness of the offense,” Bough said.

In a letter of support for the ordinance, Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ Commission, which helped develop the legislation, said the ordinance would add “an additional tool to protect victims of hate crimes” in Kansas City.

“Members of our community should be protected from fear, intimidation, harassment, and physical harm in the City of Kansas City,” the group wrote in its public testimony letter.

Bough worked with the city commission, prosecutor’s office, and the Kansas City, Missouri Police to create this policy. Council members Eric Bunch, Crispin Rea, Jonathan Duncan, Lindsey French, and Wes Rodgers also supported it.

This new rule only applies to smaller crimes in Kansas City and doesn’t change bigger state or federal crimes, which already have rules against hate crimes. The city’s courts usually deal with these smaller crimes.

In 2017, Missouri made the punishments for hate crimes tougher. But, the state often accuses Black people of hate crimes more than others, even though most hate crimes are actually done by white people.

A 2021 study by the Movement Advancement Project, a research group, showed Missouri was one of 13 states where Black people were unfairly accused of hate crimes more often. Even though Black people are just about 11% of Missouri’s population, they were blamed for nearly 33% of the hate crimes reported by police.

Rea mentioned that it’s important for the city to take this step, especially when people are watching its actions closely.

“As we continue to be in the spotlight both on national TV and soon internationally, with the World Cup, it is important for us to continue to reiterate and reaffirm our commitment that this is a safe and welcoming city,” Rea said.

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