Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it much harder for citizens to report instances of police abuse, while simultaneously putting internal affairs investigations at even greater risk of succumbing to police corruption.
House Bill No. 2698 would require citizens to swear an affidavit before submitting a complaint against an officer. If any part of the complaint is later shown to be erroneous, the citizen could be prosecuted.
Complaints will not be investigated until the accusers swear affidavits, according to the bill’s text.
It gets worse. The bill also establishes that police officers accused of abuse will never be questioned until after they have read and reviewed all aspects of the complaint. Ironically, this is exactly the opposite of how police interrogate citizens; suspects are never given the opportunity to review the entire case against them before being questioned.
The bill would also mandate that all investigations are final. If one police agency finds a cop to be innocent, no other agency would be allowed to review the case — even if the latter agency is a high authority, such as the state police.
Initial investigations of abuse cases often side with the officer. Later reviews — done by independent agencies further removed from the people involved — have a habit of reaching the opposite determination. This bill would put an end to that. (RELATED: Dashboard cam catches cops in unbelievable series of lies that led to man’s false arrest)
The Washington Post’s Radley Balko described the bill as “awful:”
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.
I’m sure that people file false complaints against police officers quite often. This bill will almost certainly discourage that. But it will also almost certainly prevent legitimate victims of police abuse from coming forward, too.
Balko cited a statistic, uncovered by the website Kansas Exposed, claiming that Wichita police rejected 100 of the last 100 racial profiling complaints. All of the people who made them could be subject to criminal prosecution if House Bill No. 2698 were in effect, and no other agency would be permitted to review the initial investigation.
What could go wrong?
No individual sponsor is listed on the bill. The entire House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice — which includes a dozen different representatives — introduced and is currently sponsoring the bill, according to the House website.