D.A. alleges corruption in Topeka narcotics unit
Report: Top officials, including chief, knew of problems
Topeka ? Narcotics officers regularly tampered with drug evidence and falsified records, and Topeka’s police chief knew about the problems when he sought prosecution of flawed criminal cases, Shawnee County’s top prosecutor said Thursday.
Dist. Atty. Robert Hecht said top Topeka police officials, including Chief Ed Klumpp, knew about problems in the narcotics unit by 2003, yet no officers were disciplined. Hecht also said his office was forced to dismiss 25 criminal cases filed since 1999 because of questions about officers’ conduct.
“It is clear that the chain of command, including the chief of police, were aware that there were serious factual flaws in these cases and that they contained false statements and allegations,” Hecht said in a report on the narcotics unit.
Hecht’s 125-page report resulted from an 18-month investigation of the narcotics unit his office conducted with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Its release came only two days after Klumpp, 56, announced he would retire in December for personal and financial reasons after 35 years with the department – including four years as chief.
Klumpp told The Associated Press that while the report details problems within the 11-member narcotics unit, it may leave a misleading picture of the entire police department of 285 officers.
“I don’t think there’s any false information in this report,” Klumpp said. “But I think what it does is paint with too broad a brush over the entire narcotics unit and perhaps the entire department and command structure.”
As for his retirement being prompted by the investigation, Klumpp said, “Certainly this is a huge issue. It’s weighed heavily on me. It’s taken its toll on me and worn me out. But the fact is I would have retired in December anyway.”
Mayor Bill Bunten said he hadn’t read the report and wanted to talk to Klumpp about it, adding, “We’ll see what his side of the story is.” The City Council scheduled a special meeting for Saturday morning to discuss the report.
One former Topeka narcotics officer has been sentenced to prison for misconduct and his ex-partner faces 144 criminal charges.
In his report, Hecht said Klumpp’s department had “a blind eye to best police practices” and that his investigation raised serious questions about the integrity of department records and its handling of evidence.
He said drug evidence was taken for personal use; officers gambled and drank alcohol while they were on duty; they falsified records about their activities; and the department failed to properly oversee the use of money for drug buys.
“This narcotics unit has a history of falsifying and/or deliberately misleading the court to secure search warrants,” Hecht wrote.
The report said that between November 2003 and February 2004, the narcotics unit’s supervisors had numerous discussions with their superiors, including Klumpp, about problems within the unit. There were no case reports on how $20,000 in money set aside for undercover drug buys had been used, even after eight or 10 months, Hecht said.
Hecht’s office already had concluded that former narcotics officer Thomas Pfortmiller stole the police drug-buy money to support a gambling habit and falsified reports about undercover drug buys.
Last month, Pfortmiller pleaded no contest in Shawnee County District Court to 50 counts of misconduct, perjury, forgery and theft and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
A week later, his former partner, Bruce Voight, was charged with 61 felonies and 83 misdemeanors and placed on paid leave. He is accused of promoting obscenity, falsifying evidence, perjury and official misconduct.
Hecht’s report Thursday didn’t identify any other officers as being part of the misconduct. However, he said other officers participated in evidence tampering, such as verifying false weights for drug evidence.
Klumpp said that as far as he knows, Pfortmiller and Voight were the only two officers involved. The chief also said the incidents of misconduct cited in the report occurred in 2002 and 2003, before the department tightened its procedures for handling drugs seized as evidence.
Hecht also said some officers, as many as two or three times a week, would leave work early and drive to a casino north of Topeka to gamble, “on occasion being accompanied by female civilians other than their spouses.” Hecht said the officers would then falsify records about what they had been doing.