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Kansas City, Kansas, police open museum even as news surfaces of federal probe into former detective

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Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Karl Oakman walks past an exhibit of police uniforms inside the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Museum on Thursday.

CNN is reporting, and Kansas City, Kansas, officials confirm, that federal prosecutors are investigating now-retired KCK police detective Roger Golubski. He partnered with the one-time police chief behind the museum effort.

The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department on Thursday unveiled a new museum, reaching back into its history without mentioning its troubled past — and present.

Chief Karl Oakman, just the second Black chief in the diverse city’s history, said the museum presents an opportunity to have honest conversations that aren’t always negative.

“I see this museum as an opportunity to continue to build bridges, where we have people come in and they can actually kind of see some of the sacrifices,” he said. “And hopefully that would help us have discussions about our differences, our perceptions, and allow us to build a stronger relationship moving forward.”

The department faces a host of controversies, including a civil lawsuit filed against an infamous former detective, Roger Golubski, who has been accused of putting an innocent man in jail and terrorizing Black women for decades. Lamonte McIntyre, who filed the lawsuit after he was exonerated, was released from prison in 2017 after serving 23 years for two murders the Wyandotte County prosecutor later determined he did not commit.

CNN reported on Thursday that federal prosecutors have convened a grand jury investigation into Golubski. The cable news network cited former police chief Terry Zeigler, a one-time partner of Golubski's, who said he testified before the grand jury. It was Zeigler's idea, before he retired in 2019, to create the museum.

KCKPD and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County later confirmed their own responses to the federal investigation.

"Since 2019, the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department has been responding to subpoenas from the FBI regarding allegations made against Roger Golubski," the KCKPD statement said. "Despite many inquiries from both the public and media over the past three years, we did not disclose our cooperation with the investigation out of concern that it could interfere with the work of federal authorities.”

Mayor Dave Alvey confirmed that the Unified Government has been cooperating with federal authorities since 2019 and hadn't commented publicly to protect the integrity of the investigation.

"I encourage the community to also assist by providing any new or relevant information they may have involving any unsolved cases or other matters for review," Alvey's statement said.

Golubski, who worked for the department for 35 years and retired as a captain in 2010, asserted his Fifth Amendment rights 555 times in a deposition last November in McIntyre's lawsuit.

The FBI has offered a reward for information on one of the women linked to Golubski, Rhonda Tribue, a Black woman who was killed in 1998 and whose case remains unsolved. Last July, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation handed over to federal authorities information from its own probe into sexual assault allegations against Golubski.

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Carlos Moreno
A somber and graphic display honoring Kansas City police killed in the line of duty is part of an exhibit inside the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Museum.

Activists have also called for a larger investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division.

Marcus Winn, a community organizer for More2, a social justice group based in Kansas City, Kansas, that asked for the Justice Department investigation, said news of the new museum would be “funny if it weren’t so tragic.” More2 wants an investigation "to uncover the true history of KCKPD, which includes systemic corruption, racism, sexual violence.”

“It's also deeply ironic that they're opening a museum to tell the story of their own history while actively covering up the truth of their own history,” Winn said. “Stop doing the same thing and actually open up and tell the truth to the public about the troubled history. That's how we move forward as a community. We have to tell the truth about what happened. And then as a community we can begin the process of healing.”

Winn questioned whether the museum was an attempt to foster better public relations following years of negative press. Police officials denied that, saying the museum’s opening was timed to be part of National Police Weekend 2021.

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Carlos Moreno
The fingerprints and mugshot of Pretty Boy Floyd are among the exhibits on display, along with handcuffs, weapons, documents, clothing and other items.

The idea for the museum arose during Zeigler's tenure as police chief after the Wyandotte County Historical Museum contacted the department in hopes of creating an exhibit at its own building, said Thomas Tomasic, a KCKPD spokesman. Zeigler liked the idea but decided he wanted the museum in the department’s downtown headquarters at 700 Minnesota Ave., Tomasic said.

Zeigler resigned in July 2019 amid questions that he had “double dipped” when he took time off to work on a lake house property he leased from the Unified Government, an allegation he denied. Zeigler was also named in a lawsuit filed by a former police cadet who was fired after reporting that she was sexually assaulted by a supervisor.

Golubski is not mentioned in the museum exhibits because only officers who were killed in the line of duty are named, Tomasic said.

Oakman said people accusing the department of refusing to release documents about the Golubski case, among other controversies, are “misinformed.” The department has released everything it can under the law, he said, but the Kansas open records statute keeps it from releasing other information.

Oakman said he is opening a cold case unit in January and pledged to go back and look at the cases of murdered women connected to Golubski.

David Hartman, curator for the Wyandotte County Historical Museum, said he volunteered to work on the museum and that the police union and the department paid for the costs. Nancy Chartrand, a police spokeswoman, said the approximate costs were $26,000.

One of the exhibits at the museum is dedicated to the late Ruby Ellington, the first Black female KCKPD officer. Her uniform shirt, hat, whistle, ticket pad and "Black America" pin are on display.

Before she died in 2019, Ellington was deposed in the McIntyre civil suit, telling investigators that Golubski was well known in the department for corrupt case clearing and for having sex with Black prostitutes.

“Golubski’s misconduct and his exploitation of Black women was well known throughout the department,” Ellington’s affidavit states. “Despite this, he was never punished. In fact, he rose steadily through the ranks and became a powerful detective and, ultimately, a captain.”

Khadijah Hardaway, a leader with Justice for Wyandotte, a grassroots organizing group in Kansas City, Kansas, was angered by news of the museum.

"Do the museum artifacts give reference to the many women and men who lost their lives at the hands of a corrupt police department?" she asked. "There have been four decades of alleged abuse with no accountability."

Niko Quinn, who was compelled to testify against McIntyre by Golubski and former Wyandotte County Prosecutor Terra Morehead, said she was excited to learn of the federal investigation.

"But I'm waiting for calls for action," Quinn said. "I'm waiting to see somebody held accountable."

Updated: October 14, 2021 at 3:14 PM CDT
This story has been updated to include comments from a police department spokeswoman in reaction to the CNN report.
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