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Archive for Sunday, December 11, 2011

Local law enforcement agencies withhold information on citizen complaints

KU, Douglas County sheriff, Eudora deny access to most information; Baldwin City provides data

December 11, 2011, 10:18 p.m. Updated December 12, 2011, 12:43 p.m.

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Summary of Journal-World investigation into police conduct

• All law enforcement entities in the county — Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin City police, as well as the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and KU Public Safety — were asked for the investigative files of complaints against officers since 2008.

• The full reports of cases were denied, but summaries of complaints were provided.

• A search of federal civil cases show that the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have been defendants in several lawsuits alleging violations of civil rights over the years, but all of those cases were dismissed by judges.

• Only two officers in the departments examined have ever been decertified by the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training — which is the state agency that certifies police officers. The two cases involved Lawrence Police officers involved in high-profile criminal cases — former officer Robert Sayler, who was convicted on 14 counts of federal wire fraud in 2009, and former officer Richard Jump, convicted of rape in 1999.

Related document

Summary of KU Public Safety complaints ( .PDF )

The Journal-World recently filed open records requests with several local law enforcement agencies asking for documents detailing citizen complaints against officers.

For the past two years, a similar request to the Lawrence Police Department has been denied, though case summaries were provided.

Here’s how the other local agencies responded to our request:

• Douglas County Sheriff’s Office: Denied request, but provided — at no cost — brief case summaries of the 19 complaints it has received since 2008. Only three of the complaints have been “sustained.”

• Kansas University Department of Public Safety: Denied request, but provided — at a cost of $132.14 — brief case summaries of the three complaints it has received since 2008. Two of those were not sustained, while a third was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office because of alleged misconduct during a federal case. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he had no information about the complaint, and KU did not respond to questions about further details.

• Eudora Police Department: Provided summaries of nine complaints since 2008, at no cost, but did not provide the full investigative files. Two of the nine complaints were "founded."

• Baldwin City Police Department: Had received one complaint, and provided — at no cost — a document detailing the allegation and disciplinary action taken against the officer.

The agencies denied the Journal-World’s full request on grounds that such records fall under an exemption in Kansas Open Records law for “personnel” records. However, the exemption is listed under the statute’s discretionary section. That is, it’s up to each agency to determine whether to release the information.

Peter Curran, the attorney who handled the records request for the sheriff’s office, said releasing the entire investigatory files on the cases “would substantially adversely affect investigations.”

Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib made similar statements about his department’s decision not to release the full investigative reports.

“I think the focus within the organization would turn to ‘not getting caught,’ or ‘don’t make any mistakes,’ rather than recognition that mistakes will happen, be honest and upfront with what one did, and the situation will be handled appropriately,” Khatib said.

Whether such records, which are sometimes referred to as internal affairs documents, should be public has been contested in several states across the country.

For instance, in New Mexico, the legal battle filtered up to the state’s Supreme Court. In a 2011 case, the New Mexico State Supreme Court ruled that the records are public, ordering the New Mexico Department of Public Safety to release such records.

Citizens can make formal complaints against law enforcement officers or departments in a variety of ways, such as in person or on the department’s website.

—Reporter Shaun Hittle can be reached at 832-7173. Follow him at Twitter.com/shaunhittle.

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Complaints against the Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Graphic depicts the disposition of complaints made against the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. Information provided by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

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Complaints against Lawrence Police

This graph shows the the disposition of complaints made against the Lawrence Police Department.

Comments

Oldsoul 3 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

lawslady 3 years ago

Thank you AR. Your name calling always lets people know that it's you. Poor picked on you. If you hate KS so much, why don't you move back where you came from?

goodcountrypeople 3 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

BlackVelvet 3 years ago

Wow...what did YOU get fired from KU for?

jimroberts 3 years ago

First, how does a file photograph of a press conference involving a cockfighting ring have anything to do with this story??? The JW students would have been better off putting up a picture of Jennifer Anniston that would have equal relevance.

Secondly, I'm all for the complaint files being open to the public. This would include publicly naming all of the accusers as well as how many complaints they have filed over the years. I believe the public would see a direct correlation with the number of complaints each year.

Thirdly, I am all for the police department naming officers publicly when the complaint is sustained; however, I am against naming the names of officers when the complaints are exonerated. People will complain on officers just to be vindictive to see their names published in a negative manner.

geekin_topekan 3 years ago

"The JW students would have been better off putting up a picture of Jennifer Anniston that would have equal relevance." ++++ I thought we decided years ago that if we insert a random photo, it should be that hula hoop chick from Waka-fest!

John Hamm 3 years ago

“I think the focus within the organization would turn to ‘not getting caught,’ or ‘don’t make any mistakes,’ rather than recognition that mistakes will happen, be honest and upfront with what one did, and the situation will be handled appropriately,” Khatib said.

Ahhhh, excuse me but isn't it a better policy to "don't make any mistakes" than to "handle appropriately?" Business as usual at the LPD!

skinny 3 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

gl0ckUser 3 years ago

wow.......2005 and 2006 that's about the time the YH stuff was main stream !

Armored_One 3 years ago

I wonder how many of the people that make the complaints complain that there is "never a cop around when you need one".

Also wonder if those same people would cheer the same officer arresting someone that was assaulting them, or breaking into their house or car.

Personally, I am glad there is a strong police presence in Lawrence. I've actually thanked officers for giving me the very rare speeding ticket. It's not their fault I was speeding and all they are doing is their job. A job that no one seems to appreciate until they find themselves in a spot that needs a cop to be present.

I'm sure there are bound to be jerkwads that get a badge and let it go to their heads. That can happen in any position of any type of job.

Alexander Smith 3 years ago

Well I think its bunch of crap. I support police and what they do for us. However, I grew up around cops all my life and I can tell you most cops do NOT uphold their oath when they know they can't get busted. Its amazing how many cops break laws and do so because they can get away with it.

The Lawrence already has a reputation of less then shining reputation for ethical behavior. A few years ago, the Lawrence Police set up a speed trap behind a school zone warning sign that was hidden behind trees until you were right next to it. They would clock you at least 50 feet or more before the zone and right you a ticket for it. I was one of them, I went to the police station to ask general rules about speed zones..well the officer was there and he came out and was a real A whole about it and I was just asking simple questions with no negative tones. He even went through the motions on when he clocked me..which gave away the fact that he clocked me at a legal speed before the zone and had applied it as if I was doing the speed in teh zone.

Also.. as a FYI to those, if you ever get a speeding ticket and suspect it was wrong. You can require the officer to prove that the radar gun when the gun was calibrated last. In Iowa they have to have a certificate in the car. People don't relize that radar guns go out of calibration OFTEN and its not uncommon for officers to use that to their advantage when quotes are not met.

BlackVelvet 3 years ago

"I support police and what they do for us. However, I grew up around cops all my life and I can tell you most cops do NOT uphold their oath when they know they can't get busted. Its amazing how many cops break laws and do so because they can get away with it."

Yeah, it sure sounds like you support police........How is it you know that "most cops" do not uphold their oath?" Have you interacted with "most cops"? Or do you assume that if a couple of cops aren't upholding their oath, then "most" of them aren't?

BlackVelvet 3 years ago

I think that tracey_gold has a stuttering problem.

Kontum1972 3 years ago

hmmm much be a glitch in pc of yours

Ricky_Vaughn 3 years ago

Sounds like a lot like sports organizations that "handle things internally". Penn State?

Jayhawk1958 3 years ago

SHould have taken Peloi as well.

jhawkinsf 3 years ago

WOW !!! Lot's of comments removed from this thread. I don't know what was said, but I'm guessing someone needed to take a chill pill.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years ago

Of course they are not going to give out information.l The "internal investigations unit" is a joke. The fox watching the hen house.

I submitted a complaint with documented evidence and was told by the last police chief that my concerns (which were clearly documented and evident of police incompetance)were unfounded. Ron Olin was clearly covering for the misconduct of two officers that was documented in the police records. I do not expect much different from the current chief, as he was a consort of the last one.

thebigspoon 3 years ago

Question for the LJW: why are you so interested in getting these rcords on people who have not been charged with crimes, but refuse (generally, as you so often put it) to publish the names of anyone not a cop who is implicated in a crime. Not trying top be argumentative, but I see little difference.

Alex Parker 3 years ago

thebigspoon, Thank you for the question. One of the core functions of a newspaper is to examine how government agencies function. By having information, such as the police records we requested, we are better able to determine if an agency is best serving the public, and where its strengths and deficiencies lie. Furthermore, nobody is suggesting that any of the officers potentially named in these reports is guilty of a crime.

We publish the names of most people charged with crimes because it is public record, and of interest to the public. That information is also freely available, and is often used in conjunction to report issues on public safety.

When newspapers, and by extension the public, are unable to examine public information, the less we know about how our government and its agencies function, and thus the less informed we are. I hope this answers your question.

Alex Parker
 Digital Editor

Armored_One 3 years ago

The question is not if there should be 'transparency', but what limits should be placed on it.

We teach our kids to not just judge someone. Racism and bigotry flourish in that kind of ignorance.

Can any of us honestly say that we don't instantly think the worst of someone just because they are accused of something vile, say molesting a child? Do you wait to find out if they are actually guilty, or do you want 'justice' done, which frequently smacks of older times, torches and ropes?

Does it serve justice to allow the public to decide a person's fate before they are even judged or does it serve our sense of outrage only?

I would much rather a listing of x number of police officers, in x year were found in violation of x laws and x punishments were given. No names, just knowledge that it happened. What is to prevent people from making note of it and attempting to use it to avoid a ticket or arrest?

"Well, gee, Officer X did it before. Is it so impossible for it to have happened again, Your Honor?"

Breaking the code of conduct for officers should remain with their record. If they break a civil ordinance, then their name should be listed as is done with every other resident of this city. It should not, however, be front page news, so to speak, unless it is a major law broken.

Flap Doodle 3 years ago

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