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Kansas City, Kansas, police launch investigation into officer caught on video looking impaired

A sign above the entrance of a brick building reads "Kansas, City, Kansas Police Headquarters."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department headquarters at 700 Minnesota Avenue in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

A Kansas City, Kansas, man said an officer who responded to his home was “high as a kite.” That officer is now on leave and KCKPD says a medical condition may have factored in the officer's behavior.

The Kansas City, Kansas, police officer’s eyes are blinking fast, his speech is slurred and he’s leaning against a wall, hanging on to the railing of a staircase. The officer’s partner is in front of him as the two white cops respond to a call about a custody issue within a Black family.

In a video that has now spread across social media and local news media, the homeowner, alarmed by the officer’s appearance, asks the officer in front to call for a sergeant, saying loudly several times that “this man is under the influence of something.”

“You brought a high cop into my house!” the man says. “This cop is high as a kite!”

A Kansas City, Kansas, Police statement issued this week said the unnamed officer who appeared inebriated was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, which was launched last week. The officer may have been reacting to a medical condition, according to KCKPD.

“That investigation includes a fit-for-duty evaluation that consists of a comprehensive medical and physical assessment and drug screening,” the statement said. “While still early in the investigation, preliminary information indicates that a medical condition may have been a factor in the officer’s appearance.”

The homeowner told The Kansas City Defender that he feared for his life during the incident and he questioned why the officers entered his home when the problem was simply a family dispute.

The incident appears to have ended peacefully, and the officer at the front of the video is shown calling in a superior. But in a city where the police department has been under fire since revelations of former Detective Roger Golubski’s alleged abuse, activists are keeping a close watch.

Nikki Richardson, a founder of Justice for Wyandotte, said she was concerned that the other officer shown in the video was unaware of or just refused to call out a fellow officer for acting odd and "showing clear signs that he was not fit to police."

"It can’t always be the responsibility of citizens to catch and report police misconduct," Richardson said. "It has to be done in-house, too."

Lora McDonald, executive director of the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, renewed the group’s call for a top-to-bottom investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. McDonald also questioned why the other officer didn’t take action, especially since the impaired-looking officer had a gun.

“This is what ‘back the blue’ looks like,” she said, referring to efforts to support police, “doing nothing when an officer's behavior is dangerous. We are gravely concerned about the inner workings of this department. Golubski may be long gone, but the culture of protect police over creating safety for all the members of the community persists.”

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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