Friday, October 12, 2007

The Kansas Human Rights Commission upholds a second racial profiling complaint

In the case of Tina Kelly, the Kansas Human Rights Commission has found that there IS probable cause to believe that she was Racially Profiled by an Officer from the Kechi Police Department. This is the second case upheld for a citizen under the Kansas Racial Profiling statute (The first being Aaron Patterson whose civil case against the WPD is still pending).

This incident and article are particularly noteworthy, not because of the specific details of the case, but rather because of the stark contrast between the reactions of the Kechi Police department and the reactions of our Wichita Police Department in similar situations.

For those of you who are not from our local area; Kechi is a small town located just a few miles to the North of Wichita. I have received information from a credible and reliable source that the Officer involved in this incident has been Fired! Apparently, there were other incidents in this officers background and rather than simply cover for someone who had abused the public trust, the KPD took swift and appropriate action.

Now contrast that against the WPD's reaction when Aaron Patterson's case was upheld by the Kansas Human Rights Commission. Chief Williams of the Wichita Police Department held a press conference where he looked into the camera and boldly stated "Aaron Patterson is lying". No officers were disciplined and no action was taken. Officers from the WPD went on to question the competence of the Human Rights Commission's investigators.

For the record, we commend the KPD for taking strong corrective action and for making it clear that racial profiling will not be tolerated in the city of Kechi. Perhaps the Wichita PD could learn a lesson or two from our small neighbor to the north.

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BY CHRISTINA M. WOODS
Reprinted from The Wichita Eagle

The Kansas Human Rights Commission has upheld a black Wichita motorist's racial profiling complaint against the Kechi Police Department stemming from a June 2006 traffic stop.

It's the second time the commission has upheld a racial profiling complaint since a 2005 law went into effect that bans law enforcement from targeting motorists based solely on race or ethnicity.

The commission's investigative findings, released to The Eagle on Thursday, said that Tina Kelly, an African-American, was delayed for 37 minutes, subjected to an "intrusive" drug dog check of her vehicle and given a citation for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.

The commission reported "a reasonable basis to believe racial profiling prompted the 'dog sniff.' "

Kelly could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Kechi Police Chief Jason Doll was not available Thursday to comment.

The finding clears the way for Kelly to file a civil lawsuit against police and collect damages if a court agrees that she was the victim of profiling.

Here's what happened, according to the commission:

An officer -- who is not named in the report -- ran a check on Kelly's vehicle tag while it was parked at a relative's Kechi residence, based on his suspicions of drug activity and experience with registration violations at the home.

Dispatch records showed the tag on the vehicle was unassigned.

The officer followed Kelly's vehicle and stopped her when she did not stop at a stop sign. He then called the Wichita Police Department's Canine Unit to do a "drug sniff" on the vehicle. Kelly and her two children had to exit the vehicle.

The commission's report said, "the canine did not 'indicate' on the vehicle, and she was written tickets for disobeying a stop sign, illegal license plate and no proof of insurance." The stop lasted 37 minutes, according to the report.

Kechi Municipal Court dismissed the registration and insurance tickets, but on Sept. 19, 2006, found her guilty of disobeying a stop sign, according to the commission's report.

Kelly filed a racial profiling complaint with the Kechi Police Department. Its internal investigation concluded on Sept. 20, 2006, that there was no racial profiling.

She filed a complaint with the Kansas Human Rights Commission on Dec. 12, 2006.

The commission calls the officer's motivation for following and stopping Kelly's vehicle "credible" based on the tags coming back unassigned.

But the commission did not uphold the officer's suspicions about drug activity. The report calls the dog sniff "an intrusive tactic."

"None of the officers on scene during the stop indicated seeing or hearing anything within the vehicle or occupants that suggested any narcotics violations," it said. "There is no other credible information to suggest a drug sniff would be called for under the circumstances presented on the date of the stop."

The commission upheld one of the 33 cases it investigated in 2006 when it found in favor of Aaron Patterson, a black man who was stopped by Wichita police Aug. 24, 2006, for failing to use a turn signal. The ticket was later dismissed in court.

Patterson sued the city. That case is still pending in court, according to the commission.



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