Jay-Z’s Team ROC filed a lawsuit Monday against the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, accusing the agency of covering up police misconduct. The lawsuit was filed in the Wyandotte County District Court.
Team ROC filed the lawsuit in order to obtain records from the police department, “to help ascertain the scope of the misconduct and evaluate the adequacy of the KCKPD’s training and supervision,” the lawsuit says.
Here are five things to know about the lawsuit:
The lawsuit alleges that the police department has a history of misconduct, calling the department’s history an “open secret.” Members of the police department have planted evidence, fabricated witness statements and testimony, procured sexual favors, concealed exculpatory evidence and concealed the misconduct of other members of the police department, the lawsuit said.
The police department has refused to produce documents about internal investigations of wrongdoing by specific members of the police department, “preventing the public from evaluating whether the KCKPD has adequately supervised its officers, investigated any complaints and addressed the allegations of misconduct against members of its force,” the lawsuit reads.
“For decades, the KCKPD has failed to provide accountability for officer misconduct,” the lawsuit says. “And, thanks to the blue veil of silence and apparent failure to investigate serious allegations, little of it has come to light.”
On Aug. 15, Team ROC filed a records request with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County that would allow Team ROC to ”assess the extent of misconduct within KCKPD Investigative Division,” the lawsuit reads.
The city allegedly refused to produce documents regarding three of the records requests.
Team ROC is seeking those documents, and documents aside from personnel records, “that will help the public better understand the KCKPD’s response to complaints,” the lawsuit reads.
What is Team ROC?
Team ROC is the philanthropic arm of Roc Nation — an entertainment company launched by Jay-Z — in 2008. Team Roc has pushed for criminal justice and police reform across various police departments and correctional facilities across the country.
Last year, Team Roc, along with Jay-Z and hip-hop artist financially supported a federal lawsuit against the Mississippi prison system, alleging that inmates were subjected to “barbaric” conditions, according to ABC News.
In February 2019, Jabari Talbot, a 6th grade boy from Florida, was arrested after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Team Roc had attorney Alex Spiro handle Talbot’s case and the case was dismissed in March 2019.
What is the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department?
The Kansas City, Kansas Police Department is the police department that serves Kansas City, Kansas, which is the county seat of Wyandotte County. The police department is different from the Kansas City Police Department, which serves Kansas City, Missouri.
The department has over 345 sworn officers and 150 civilian employees that serve a population of about 150,000 citizens. The department’s annual budget is about $60 million. Karl Oakman serves as the Police Chief and was sworn in as the new police chief in June. Oakman replaced Interim Police Chief Michael York, who served since September 2019.
York was selected to serve as police chief following the resignation of former chief Terry Zeigler, whose 29-year career with the department ended under heavy scrutiny related in part to a police cadet who sued the department. She alleged Zeigler fired her for reporting a sexual assault at the hands of her supervisor, an officer.
Past allegations against the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department
The Kansas City, Kansas Police Department has faced previous allegations of misconduct. In July, the social justice organization MORE2 announced its plans to file a request with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Community activists called for a federal investigation into the department after numerous accusations of misconduct in recent years.
Former homicide detective Roger Golubski has been accused of rape and was involved in a wrongful conviction that sent a Lamonte McIntyre to prison for more than two decades — McIntyre was freed in October 2017. Golubski was a police officer with the department for 35 years, leaving in 2010, going from patrol officer to detective to a captain investigating homicides.
He faces allegations in a lawsuit that he used his police badge to exploit vulnerable Black women for sexual favors and coerced some of them into fabricating testimony to clear cases he investigated. He has denied the accusations.
Questions have been raised publicly about how much the department knew about Golubski’s behavior.
The department has been plagued by other controversies. Former officer Steven Rios was charged with sexually assaulting a cadet who worked under him in 2018. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and retired from the department in 2019.
And in 2019, The Kansas Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation into whether Zeigler “double dipped” when he took time off to work on property he was leasing from the Unified Government at Wyandotte County Lake.
For months, Zeigler lived in the house at Wyandotte Lake Park under a handshake deal with Unified Government officials that allowed him to pay little rent in return for making repairs to the property.
What has been the response from the police department?
In a statement, KCKPD said they have released to the group hundreds of pages of documents under the Kansas Open Records Act, with several exceptions. The state law does not require the release of personnel records and criminal investigation files, the department said.
“In response, Roc Nation has filed a 28-page petition stating there is a special interest in disclosing all records so the public can seek justice. Once the petition has been thoroughly reviewed, the Unified Government will follow-up by filing a response,” the statement said.
The Star’s Katie Moore and Glenn Rice contributed to this report.