Kansas Could Make It A Felony To Report Unfounded Allegations Of Police AbuseBY RADLEY BALKO
Mar. 20, 2014
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A pretty awful new bill (PDF) in the Kansas legislature would require anyone filing a complaint against a police officer to swear an affidavit before the complaint will be investigated. If any portion of the complaint is later shown to be false, the complainant could then be prosecuted for perjury.
That’s bad enough. But the bill also has a couple other troubling provisions. First, it lets officers who are the subject of complaints avoid answering questions until they’re given the complaint with all documenting evidence in its entirety. No respectable police detective would conduct an investigation this way. Any police interrogator will tell you that you never let a suspect know everything you know about the allegations against him. A good cop will have a true story that exonerates him, regardless of what’s stated in the complaint or how the complaint is revealed to him. A bad cop who is given the entire complaint can construct a narrative informed by everything the investigators know, safe in the knowledge that there is no additional information that could later contradict him.
Second, the bill would prohibit any police agency from investigating a complaint against an officer if another police agency has already found the complaint to be without merit. In practical terms, that means a sheriff’s department or the state police couldn’t investigate the possibility that a city or town police department was covering up misconduct. It doesn’t happen often, but on a few occasions that sort of investigation has exposed corruption and patterns of misconduct. (This case from Kansas City is instructive, though it occurred on the Missouri side of the border.) Once an officer’s own police agency clears him of wrongdoing, he’s home free.
So you’re welcome to file a complaint. But the cop you’re complaining about will be investigated by his colleagues -- and only his colleagues. If they find that he did nothing wrong, as they nearly always do, you could then be arrested for a felony.