Anyone can file a complaint against a police officer. Sometimes, the complaint is simply that, rightly or wrongly, a citizen felt an officer was rude. Sometimes, the allegation is more serious.
The Lawrence Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability investigated 28 of those complaints last year, including several made by officers and employees within the department. Ten of those were proven out by internal investigations, leading to consequences that can range from a verbal reprimand to firing, depending on the seriousness of the offense.
The police department does not make all of the details of those investigations public, but since 2010 and 2011 it has issued a report each year giving an account of how many complaints were received, how many were found to have a factual basis, and some limited information about the complaints themselves.
The first complaint of 2012 concerned a off-duty police officer who was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI on Jan. 5 last year. Marie Angel Haynes, 33, reached a diversion agreement with Douglas County prosecutors and resigned from the police department. Haynes is still licensed as a law enforcement officer, but has not worked in that field since resigning, according to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training, which certifies police officers in Kansas.
Below are summaries of nine more complaints that internal investigations confirmed later in 2012.
• A citizen reported that an employee failed to take a report of a crime of domestic violence.
• A department employee reported that another employee failed to report damage to a work vehicle.
• A department employee reported that another employee had missed several court appearances.
• A department employee reported inappropriate behavior by another employee.
• A department employee reported that an off-duty employee had acted unprofessionally.
• A department employee reported that another employee was rude.
• A department employee reported that another employee failed to document all of the pertinent details in a burglary report.
• A citizen reported that an employee was unprofessional and rude during an encounter.
• A department employee reported that another employee was engaged in outside employment without approval.
The department will not reveal what action was taken in most of these cases, or the identities of the people involved, according to department spokesman Sgt. Trent McKinley, because of personnel policies. But he did point out that some of the complaints were made by officers and employees within the department.
McKinley said that, from a self-policing point of view, those complaints were actually good news for the department.
“I actually kind of like to see those things from time to time,” McKinley said. “You’re always going to have someone make a misstep.” What any agency should hope for, he said, is that a partner or colleague will point out the mistake and it will be handled by the proper authorities.
The Office of Professional Accountability can be reached by phone at 785-832-7551. Residents can register complaints — or compliments — with the police department online here.