High-profile law enforcement cases shed light on role of Kansas Fraternal Order of Police
The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Mark McCormick is the former executive director of the Kansas African American Museum and a member of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission..
The Fraternal Order of Police of Kansas becomes involved in any disciplinary matters involving officers.
This means the organization is involved in investigations of Wichita law enforcement altering responses on a form that sentenced CJ Lofton to prison rather than a hospital. Lofton was killed by juvenile prison staff. The FOP is also involved in investigations of Wichita officers circulating racist memes on social media and praising the officers who shot and killed people.
The group advises officers, helps them mount a defense and fights for them to get their jobs back if they are fired. It offers insurance plans covering the costs of civil action and administrative hearings. It has more than 3,100 police officers, deputies, soldiers and investigators across the state.
According to its website, it also “aggressively provides a professional, full-service legislative operation.” Members sometimes appear at Statehouse hearings in full uniform as a show of force. “The FOP coordinates…legislative activities, providing our members with a full-time lobbyist on Capitol Hill,” the site says.
In my years as a journalist, law enforcement officials shared their frustrations with the FOP, saying that after working for years to get rid of substandard officers, the organization fired them. in the street.
But this work, while commendable in some cases, has few safeguards. The truth is that the FOP is not accountable to citizens, but wields enormous power to protect police officers from punishment for behavior that harms citizens. If bad officers survive investigations and return to the streets, they usually have the FOP to thank. This should concern us.
I emailed Kansas FOP, but got no response. I found much of the information above – from his Kansas numbers to his legal defense plan – on the organization website.
In my years as a journalist, law enforcement officials shared their frustrations with the FOP, saying that after working for years to get rid of substandard officers, the organization fired them. in the street. Law enforcement officials said it was difficult to discipline even wayward officers because of the influence of the FOP. Black officers said the FOP tends not to represent them as zealously as it represents white officers, if at all.
I guess FOP leaders would say they are just protecting the rights of police officers, the same way everyone deserves due process.
And let’s be clear: all officers deserve protections.
My father and grandfather served as chief of police in my parents’ hometown of Boley, Oklahoma. My sister is a retired cop. I had family at the Wichita Police Department.
I don’t hate the police.
But I hate how little accountability the police have. I hate how people like Lofton end up dead and no one even faces charges. I hate the scarcity of police prosecutions in the face of growing complaints filed for decades by citizens.
Consider the Wichita Police Department current scandal. Officers were punished much more lightly due to FOP influence.
Wichita City Manager Bob Layton, bless his heart, claims he knew nothing about the social media scandal. His request for an independent investigation only came after the council pressured him to act. He controls the police department’s budget and meets regularly with the Chief of Police.
Meanwhile, authorities are investigating a retired Kansas City detective. accused of terrorizing black women for decades and for trapping an innocent man who spent years in prison because the man’s mother rejected the detective’s advances.
So now the two largest police departments in Kansas are facing external investigations and seem to be having internal problems.
Kansas is not alone.
In 2016, an Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzgriffe was sentenced to 263 years in prison for numerous rapes and sexual assaults on eight women in the line of duty. How many women complained about Holtzclaw as he continued his predatory patrols?
This week alone, the Baltimore Sun published a success story about a former police sergeant who admitted, among a list of offenses, to giving evidence, lying to a grand jury, stealing money and drugs from drug dealers and selling it in his name , and helped officers understand their stories after a shooting.
But we don’t see how the FOP handles any of these cases. Does he refuse to provide defense to officers like Holtzclaw? How many times will he represent officers like the one in Baltimore?
If the FOP helped such an officer, what could we do about it? Don’t forget that he is answerable only to the members.
So while I think the police deserve union protections, I also think we deserve protection – of both.
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