Lawrence City Hall officials on Tuesday gave Douglas County prosecutors the names of two suspended Lawrence police officers, while also confirming they’re continuing to investigate the role other officers may have played in dismissing speeding tickets in exchange for Kansas University basketball tickets.
Four former Kansas Athletics employees and one current employee have been federally charged and two former employees have pleaded guilty in a scandal involving millions of dollars of stolen tickets from the university.
Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Tuesday afternoon Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib provided him the names of the two officers who have been suspended following the ticket-fixing investigation. The names have been forwarded to Branson so he can determine if the alleged ethical violations of the officers are pertinent to other pending or past cases.
“I have an obligation to review any case that involves those officers and determine if the alleged misconduct is material to the defense in any case they are associated with or if the conduct damages that officer’s credibility,” Branson said in a statement Tuesday.
The city confirmed the investigation last week but has not released the names of the two officers, calling it a personnel matter. Branson did not release the names or ranks of the two officers Tuesday, instead referring to his written statement.
“Information that may impact the officer’s veracity, show a propensity for bias or any evidence of a crime may be required to be turned over to defense counsel,” according to the statement. “We will diligently review our files, past and current, to make sure that appropriate parties are notified.”
Also on Tuesday, Khatib and City Manager David Corliss confirmed that other officers were involved in the process of dismissing speeding tickets for an individual who had access to KU basketball tickets. The investigation has indicated those officers may have been asked by a single member of the police department to dismiss those tickets as a favor. It isn’t clear whether those other officers received KU basketball tickets in exchange for the dismissals. The city on Tuesday declined to provide an estimate of the number of other officers involved or whether other suspensions could be forthcoming.
“We have two people on suspension, and we’re still looking at the information to determine what the appropriate level of action is on the others,” Khatib said.
City officials previously have said their investigation determined that one officer largely orchestrated the ticket fixing, while the other officer on suspension had knowledge of the activity and did not step forward. But Khatib on Tuesday sought to assure residents that the misconduct was not widespread in the department.
“I don’t think the public needs to worry here that we’re talking about a ton of tickets,” Khatib said. “This is not a widespread, systemic amount of officers. I can tell you that. It is not that huge of an amount.
“It is not indicative of all of the officers. The public does not need to worry about how many officers are doing this. The vast majority of officers are doing an excellent job, and occasionally some people drop the ball. That is what we’re dealing with here. That is it.”
The city, though, has declined to release details about the number of tickets involved or the amount of time the alleged ticket fixing took place. But Corliss said he does expect to be in a position to release that information once the city has completed its investigation.
“I would hope sooner rather than later,” Corliss said of his timeline for releasing the information. “I understand the interest in this and the interest to move on.”
The two officers were suspended following an investigation by the FBI in which no criminal charges were filed. Khatib said there was an internal investigation because it appeared the city’s gratuity policy had been violated. Two officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Corliss said the person whose speeding tickets were fixed is serving time in federal prison related to a broader KU tickets scandal from 2005 to 2010 after four Kansas Athletics Inc. employees and one athletic department consultant pleaded guilty in the $2 million cash-for-tickets scam.
Khatib, who was promoted to police chief in February 2011, received an anonymous letter in May 2011 about the allegations involving the police department, and it was eventually referred to federal authorities.
The city has not provided a definitive timeline of the events involving the officers beyond saying it occurred “over several years,” and Branson said Tuesday he did not yet have an indication for how far back his office would look at cases to review to see if any involved the two officers.
Branden Bell, a defense attorney, said last week he was advising clients not to enter a plea in pending cases involving a Lawrence police officer as a witness until the officers were identified saying it created an issue about credibility because the two officers were accused of engaging in “dishonest conduct.”
Khatib and Corliss have said “several” members of the department were involved in the dismissal of tickets but contended one individual orchestrated the matter. They have also not identified the now-imprisoned individual who provided the KU basketball tickets or said how many speeding tickets were dismissed.
Mayor Aron Cromwell has said that it was Khatib’s decision but that it was likely the officer leading the activity will be removed from the department.