AP: Kansas congressional candidates scuffle over police reform

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican state treasurer and Democratic Topeka mayor who are running for the open seat in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District clashed over police reform and racial justice in a debate.

Jake LaTurner, the state’s treasurer, was on the attack Wednesday for much of the 30-minute debate, televised by KSNT in Topeka. He accused Michelle De La Isla, Topeka’s first Latina mayor, of holding “radical” beliefs such as defunding police, The Kansas City Star reports.

De La Isla said she does “not support defunding the police” and called a LaTurner ad that suggested she was actively doing so in Topeka “distasteful and full of lies.” She said it was spliced from a press conference, which is posted to Facebook, where she criticized a newspaper article for taking her words out of context. She said the department has a $40 million budget which has increased in her time as mayor.

Those calling for defunding generally mean shifting money from law enforcement agencies to other efforts. They want social workers rather than police to respond to non-crime emergency calls and more money sent to community programs aimed at preventing crime. They want to take police officers out of schools and military gear away from departments.

In the debate, De La Isla did call for more spending on preventative measures such as early childhood education.

“We have to ensure that everybody in this state and in this country has access to opportunity,” she said. She later added that people killed by officers, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, deserved justice.

LaTurner, who defeated incumbent Steve Watkins in the August GOP primary, agreed that many of those killed by police deserved justice but attributed such deaths to “bad apples.” He focused on the need to support police and law and order.

“Talk to the men and women on the front line of the police here in Topeka. They don’t feel the support,” LaTurner said.

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