The ACLU of Kansas asks Attorney General to investigate the Tonganoxie Police Department
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The ACLU of Kansas has requested an investigation of the Tonganoxie Police Department in relations to an August 2018 incident in which Tonganoxie officers detained a black man moving into his own home, a letter to Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.
The case involves 61-year-old former Marine Karle Robinson whom police held at gunpoint and handcuffed as he moved into the home he’d purchased a month earlier, a campaign of surveillance that followed and finally, Tonganoxie Police Chief Greg Lawson obstructing Robinson from filing a racial bias complaint with the department.
“Each of these incidents would be concerning had they been alleged independently,” the letter from the ACLU of Kansas reads. “Together, they suggest a pervasive culture of racial bias and systemic process failure within the Tonganoxie Police Department. Accordingly, we request that the Kansas Office of the Attorney General investigate TPD or refer this complaint to the Kansas Commission on Officers Standards and Training (CPOST).”
Chief Lawson’s conduct raises particularly serious issues, said ACLU of Kansas Interim Executive Director and Legal Director Lauren Bonds.
“Mr. Robinson believes his detention was motivated by his race rather than a reasonable suspicion that he was committing a burglary,” Bonds said. “It also appears that the Chief of Police prevented Mr. Robinson from filing a credible, legitimate complaint and that is not in compliance with reporting and intake standards. He must not interfere with citizens registering complaints.”
Even if Chief Lawson had ultimately declined to investigate the matter, Robinson wanted to make a formal, written record detailing his experience and Chief Lawson deprived him of that opportunity, Bonds said.
Robinson, who moved to Tonganoxie from Merriam, said he endured a campaign of harassment from the moment he arrived. Police followed him from his home to the highway. An officer parked in front of his home almost daily or repeatedly drove past his home.
Only after he publicly complained to The Kansas City Star did the harassment subside.
The Tonganoxie Police Department’s assertions about the case are riddled with inconsistencies and Robinson was taking boxed items into the home, not removing unboxed items from it, should have suggested to a reasonable officer that no burglary was in progress.
“Many of the circumstances Officer Adams states formed the basis for his suspicion that Mr. Robinson was committing a burglary are disproved by the bodycam footage and are inconsistent with other independently verifiable facts,” the letter to the Attorney General states.