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Kansas City Police board to investigate whistleblower claims

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Peggy Lowe
/
KCUR 89.3
Holly Dodge, left, sits next to Acting Deputy Chief Stacey Graves before the start of Tuesday's Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners meeting. Dodge is at the center of a whistleblower's report that says she unethically hid criminal case evidence and denied public records requests.

The board on Tuesday also delayed a decision on hiring a new police chief.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday announced it will investigate a whistleblower’s explosive claims that the department’s chief attorney unethically funneled criminal evidence away from prosecutors and denied public records requests.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, one of the five commissioners, said they all agreed to hire an outside firm to look into the allegations raised by former KCPD lawyer Ryan McCarty, who was fired last week.

“What we're doing right now is making sure that we're drilling down and doing the investigation that's necessary in connection with the issue,” Lucas told reporters after the meeting. “There were very serious claims that were raised. We will make sure that we give them the respect and the diligence that's necessary.”

McCarty’s eight-page letter, along with hundreds of pages of documentation, was sent to a number of city and county officials last Saturday, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.

City councilwoman Teresa Loar, a staunch police advocate, told the board she read the entire report and urged the commissioners to fix the situation.

“I literally was appalled, which is hard for us on city council to say because we deal with this (kind of claim) every day,” she said.

Hired just six months ago, McCarty wrote that 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.”

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

Also Tuesday, the board debated the three finalists for police chief, but failed to make an announcement. Board President Mark Tolbert said it would be meeting again at 9 a.m. on Thursday, but was not specific about a final decision.

The board has been roundly criticized for a lack of transparency and community input into the process for hiring a replacement for former Chief Rick Smith, who retired last spring. The finalists are KCPD’s Acting Deputy Chief Stacey Graves; DeShawn Beaufort, a commander with the Philadelphia Police Department; and Scott Ebner, a retired lieutenant colonel for the New Jersey State Police.

On Tuesday, Alvin Brooks, a former police officer, board member and longtime community organizer, called on the board to delay the process and asked the board to conduct three more public meetings.

“I hasten to say that for the board as a public body, honoring total transparency as provided by law is essential for the community to have faith and trust in your deliberations and conclusions, most especially in the selection of a chief,” Brooks said.

Lucas said board members will spend more time checking the background of the three finalists.

The commissioners will be “making calls to either in this agency, past chiefs, other agencies, current commissioners, chiefs, mayors, etc., to make sure that we're going through everything we need to, to evaluate everyone,” Lucas said.

Pastor Darron Edwards of the United Believers Community Church has been critical of the process since the finalists were announced last week, saying he believes the board had “fixed” the process so it can choose Graves.

But now, Edwards said after Tuesday’s meeting, the board should move forward, and he criticized its failure to make a decision.

“I think it says to speak to a bit of the ineptness of the board,” Edwards said, “and a sense of urgency that needs to take place so that (the community) knows that this city needs a top cop who's ready to bring a sense of calm and healing to this city that we talk about. But it cannot happen when you have a vacancy at the top.”

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.
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