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Kansas City mayor calls on police board to investigate KCPD whistleblower’s allegations

A man standing at right wears a police chief's uniform and is looking at another man holding a microphone and gesturing.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Interim Police Chief Joseph Mabin (right) listens to Mark Tolbert, president of the Board of Police Commissioners, during his swearing-in ceremony on April 22, 2022.

Mayor Quinton Lucas says allegations made by a former Kansas City Police Department attorney that the department withheld evidence in criminal cases and denied public records requests is “troubling” and could trigger further federal oversight of the department.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Monday called on the Board of Police Commissioners to investigate a “troubling” whistleblower complaint that alleges the police department deliberately hid criminal case evidence and illegally denied public records requests.

The allegations made by Ryan McCarty, an attorney who was fired from the KCPD last week, could also trigger further federal investigation into what Lucas said looks like “a total lack of institutional control at KCPD."

Lucas, who is one of five members of the police board, said the panel should talk about the letter at Tuesday’s board meeting and seek answers on whether the claims are truthful and what can be done about them. Officers and the community deserve accountability from the department, he said.

“This needs to, unlike much of what we've done in the past, be investigated,” Lucas said on KCUR’s Up To Date. “It is not the sort of thing that can be swept under the rug."

McCarty’s dramatic eight-page letter was sent Saturday to Lucas, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the Board of Police Commissioners, the U.S. Department of Justice and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.

The letter, along with nearly 400 pages of documentation, outlined several examples of KCPD’s alleged hiding of evidence from prosecutors and refusing public records requests from the media and others.

McCarty was hired just six months ago. He said he tried to tell KCPD’s general counsel, Holly Dodge, that her “self-concocted, haphazard methodology of filtering and funneling” evidence was “borderline unethical and could be deleterious to the credibility of the department.”

When it came to public records, McCarty wrote that Dodge went about “consistently, systematically, and unlawfully closing records that should be open, thereby denying the public access to what it is entitled under the law.” He said Dodge did that by claiming the information fell under continuing investigations.

McCarty also blasted Interim Chief Joseph Mabin, who he said allowed Dodge to continue with the alleged behavior.

KCPD spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina confirmed that McCarty worked for the department from June through December.

“Any allegations made have been or will be reviewed and addressed as appropriate,” Becchina said.

Dion Sankar, chief deputy of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, responded to McCarty's email, thanking him for alerting them to the alleged problems and seeking a meeting this week.

Lucas said he expected to talk to Gov. Parson about the claims.

Given that the department is already under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly racist hiring practices, federal authorities could step in further, he said. The DOJ can enter into what’s called a consent decree, which is the federal government's main tool to force changes within local police departments, often covering anything from excessive force policies to civil rights violations.

Local civil rights organizations have repeatedly called on the Department of Justice to investigate officer misconduct and excessive force against civilians.

Lucas suggested that the debate in Kansas City — the only U.S. city that is under state control of its police department — might switch from one about local vs. state control to whether the federal government should step in.

"I think it's the sort of thing that may require federal authorities, the United States attorney, others, just to make sure that we are answering the very real allegations at issue,” Lucas said. “Claims about the police department hiding evidence, exculpatory evidence of criminal defendants, is a huge deal."

McCarty also alleged that Mabin and Dodge disciplined and even discriminated against other KCPD employees “in an uneven and unfair manner,” which he wrote amounted to a double standard.

McCarty said he knows of complaints about Dodge from 11 other people in the department, which Mabin ignored. McCarty said he was fired because he spoke up, which he called “mafia justice” intended to scare the others into staying silent.

“The real injustice of all this is that not only were their complaints and concerns summarily dismissed by their appointed leader sans investigation, but they have been threatened and made to fear future retaliation,” McCarty wrote of his former colleagues. “They now live and work in fear.”

Also Monday, Mabin announced via his blog that he hired Major Kari Thompson, most recently the head of the East Patrol Division, to lead a new Community Engagement Division. Mabin said the unit will consist of KCPD’s social workers, community interaction officers, crisis intervention team, crime-free multi-housing officers, chaplains and the LGBTQ+ liaison officer.

“It will unify services we provide that once functioned within their own silos,” he wrote. “Now, they will be intertwined, helping us communicate better and streamline resources. This will ultimately provide better service to our residents and businesses.”

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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