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Family says KCKPD 'intimidated' them while investigating allegations of impaired officer

The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department headquarters at 700 Minnesota Avenue in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department headquarters at 700 Minnesota Avenue in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

Police say the Black family who reported the white officer’s odd behavior refused to cooperate during an internal affairs investigation. An attorney for the family says police have been driving by their house and parking across the street in an effort to scare them.

A white Kansas City, Kansas, Police officer who was accused of responding to a call appearing impaired passed a fit-for-duty examination and was cleared of wrongdoing after an internal investigation, police said Tuesday.

The incident is not resolved yet — the KCKPD statement said a review is now being done by the patrol bureau director, who will make a final recommendation. But the family who reported the incident are taking issue with KCKPD's allegation that they refused to cooperate with the investigation.

An attorney for the family now says they're considering all legal options against the officers involved and the department.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, a spokesperson from the KCKPD said the residents where the incident took place refused to work with police.

"It is important to note that residents featured in the video did not file a formal complaint and refused to cooperate with the investigation," the statement read.

That angered the family’s attorney and local activists, who asked why the family would want to cooperate when they felt intimidated by KCKPD officers since the video was made public in January. KCKPD officers continued to drive by and stop at the house or to watch the family from a parking lot across the street from their home, according to the family's lawyer, Spencer Webster.

“The family is scared and constantly looking out the window fearing KCKPD are watching,” Webster said.

The event, caught in a video that went viral, shows two officers responding to a custody dispute at a private home. One of the officer’s eyes were blinking fast, his speech was slurred and he leaned against a wall, hanging on to the railing of a staircase. The homeowner, alarmed by the officer’s appearance, asks the second officer 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 homeowner says. “This cop is high as a kite!”

Kansas City, Kansas, has a history of bad relations between the mostly white police force and the Black community, most notably since revelations of former Detective Roger Golubski’s alleged abuse. Activists have continuously called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into racism within the department.

A KCKPD statement in reaction to the video in January blamed the unnamed officer’s conduct on a medical condition. He was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

The internal affairs investigation determined that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the officer and that he “passed a fit for duty examination conducted by several medical professionals,” according to a statement sent late Tuesday by Nancy Chartrand, KCKPD spokeswoman.

Webster, the family’s attorney, said the family’s request to bring a supervising sergeant to the scene as it happened should be considered a formal complaint.

“I’m not sure what other information they would need from the family considering a sergeant was on the scene as the situation unfolded,” Webster said. “But history has taught us that KCKPD does not take citizen complaints seriously.”

Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2, a Kansas City, Kansas, social justice organization, saw photos of KCKPD cruisers near the family’s home and she believes they were trying to intimidate the family.

“We saw the video. Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department administration was appropriately engaged by the family, in real time, while the incident was occurring,” she said. “The family video documented enough of the officer's alarming behavior that this should have immediately resulted in action by KCKPD.”

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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