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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Luke Nozicka

Activists, lawyers call on DOJ to investigate KCK police for civil rights violations

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — More than 100 people braved the cold Thursday to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a pattern-or-practice investigation of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department.

At a rally in front of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, civil rights lawyers, residents and activists from other states said broad DOJ intervention is required in KCK, which they described as being plagued by police misconduct for decades. They painted former detective Roger Golubski, who is under federal indictment, as the face of deeper corruption within the police force.

“Roger Golubski did not exist in a vacuum,” said local attorney Cheryl Pilate, who successfully sued Golubski on behalf of a wrongly convicted man. “He was part of the system — a system that was supposed to protect citizens from abuse, but did not.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

After years of allegations, Golubski was indicted in September on six civil rights violations for allegedly kidnapping and sexually assaulting two women, one of whom was a minor at the time, from 1998 to 2002. Prosecutors have painted Golubski as a serial rapist, contending he preyed on or raped seven other victims, at times threatening to kill them or their loved ones if they reported him.

Then on Monday, Golubski was indicted on new charges that allege he conspired with three other men to run a violent sex trafficking operation in the 1990s. Prosecutors believe he protected those men, who were trafficking vulnerable, underage girls, for payoffs.

The former cop, who retired in 2010 after 35 years at KCKPD, has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Pilate and Lindsay Runnels, both of whom have investigated Golubski’s conduct as part of litigation, told the crowd Thursday that KCKPD enabled the detective’s wrongdoing and that the system that produced him is responsible for other harms reverberating in the community today. Black women in KCK, they said, still suffer from the trauma Golubski, who is white, and his colleagues inflicted.

Among those who spoke was Ophelia Williams, whose Golubski stands accused of raping, as well as activists who organized the 2017 Women’s March and others who traveled from Oklahoma and New York.

“I live in New York City and I shouldn’t have to be here,” said Mysonne Linen, an activist and hip-hop artist. “I shouldn’t have to come across this nation and demand justice for Black women.”

Ahead of Thursday, Team Roc, the social justice arm of rapper Jay-Z’s entertainment company, paid for four digital billboards — two in KCK and two in Topeka — calling for Golubski to be held “accountable” and displaying a link to a website that promoted the rally. One billboard was a 10-minute drive from Golubski’s Edwardsville home, where he remains on house arrest.

Last year, Team Roc facilitated donations totaling $1 million for the Midwest Innocence Project to investigate potential wrongful convictions in Wyandotte County. Lawyers for Jay-Z’s organization have alleged KCK cops planted evidence, concealed misconduct and solicited sexual favors from victims and witnesses, among other wrongdoing, over the years.

The local innocence project is now screening 30 Wyandotte County convictions, some of which were investigated by Golubski. Several of those cases, in which detectives stand accused of coercing witnesses, were the focus of a recent Kansas City Star investigation.

Egregious accusations of police misconduct in KCK came to light during the exoneration of Lamonte McIntyre, who was freed in 2017 after spending 23 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit. A lawsuit he filed accused Golubski of not only using his position to sexually abuse Black women, but of framing innocent people and protecting drug dealers who paid him off.

Earlier this year, the Unified Government settled McIntyre’s lawsuit for $12.5 million — the largest public wrongful conviction settlement in Kansas history.

Activists noted that the Justice Department has conducted similar investigations in Ferguson, Missouri — where police were found in 2015 to engage in civil rights violations — and Louisville, Kentucky, where there is an ongoing DOJ probe into its police force. And just this week, DOJ announced it is investigating the police department in Worcester, Massachusetts.

When DOJ launches such an investigation, federal investigators look for patterns of unconstitutional policing, such as officers making illegal stops, using excessive force or violating the rights of suspects.

Investigators interview community members and reviews records, among other things. After the probe, Justice officials would issue a public report of their findings. If DOJ finds unlawful police practices, it works with departments to institute reforms.

Police Chief Karl Oakman has said he has worked to improve relations between the police department and the community, with his focus on reducing violent crime today. Since he became chief in 2021, Oakman has brought the FBI in to train captains and other supervisors on color of law violations and other race related policing issues.

Since 2019, KCKPD has been cooperating with the FBI on its ongoing investigation into Golubski. The department has said it will provide any information requested by outside agencies.

People who might speak:

Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project,

Linda Sarsour, who also organized the 2017 Women’s March,

Mallory, Sarsour and other co-chairs of the women’s march were named among TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2017

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