Public report not created in shooting death of Topeka man by police
Topeka ? An advocate for open government contends the Topeka and Lawrence police departments are trying to bypass the state’s open records laws by not creating a standard public document on the fatal shooting of a man by Topeka police officers more than a month ago.
Both departments have denied requests for incident and offense reports on the Sept. 28 shooting of Dominique White, which is being investigated by the Lawrence police department. They have not created the first page of the Kansas Standard Offense Report, which is a public record under state law and is routinely released, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Ron Keefover, president of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, said he had never heard of a police department failing to issue such a report.
“I think that’s a purposeful attempt to circumvent the Kansas Open Records Act,” Keefover said. “Suddenly because this involves one of their own, they’re not creating one.”
The state’s open records law doesn’t require government agencies to create records upon request, but they are required to release reports that already exist.
Luther Ganieany, legal adviser for Topeka police, initially denied a request for the report “due to concerns for the safety of the officers involved in the incident.” When asked to release the report with officers’ names redacted, Ganieany said the department didn’t create the report because Lawrence police are handling the investigation.
Ganieany said Kansas law requires that a report be created within 72 hours after police know an offense was committed, “which could mean police have yet to decide whether White’s shooting was an ‘offense.'”
The Topeka police department said in a news release after the shooting that the officers shot White in a park when he was trying to flee and reached for a pocket containing a handgun. The Capital-Journal reported White’s death certificate said he died from gunshot wounds to his back.
Lawrence police spokeswoman Kim Murphree said her department didn’t create a front page for an offense report on the shooting and has generated only criminal investigation narratives and corresponding criminal investigation records. The department didn’t explain why a front page wasn’t created.
Lawrence police said last month that releasing incident and offense reports would interfere with the ongoing investigation. Murphree again denied access to the full report on Monday.