Two crises of corruption. LaMonte McIntyre, a Wyandotte County resident, was wrongfully convicted and served 23 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. George Floyd, a Minnesota resident, was executed in broad daylight when a police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
When I was elected as the District Attorney of Wyandotte County, Kansas, the McIntyre case greeted me when I walked through the doors.
I personally spent eight months investigating the facts of the case, examined boxes of evidence, and met with numerous witnesses and members of McIntyre’s family and the victim’s family.
They all said the same thing: McIntyre did not commit the crimes.
Ultimately, the case was brought before a judge who declared Mr. McIntyre’s conviction was a manifest injustice and dismissed the charges. I declined to re-file the case and the case was dismissed.
Mr. McIntyre was released from prison and able to live his life as a free man. Ultimately, he was granted a certificate of innocence and cleared of any wrongdoing.
The community demanded action. Born out of this first crisis of corruption, the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office created the first Conviction Integrity Unit in the state of Kansas.
Convictions of yesterday must hold integrity today and tomorrow. Our office asked for and obtained funding to staff and operate that unit from the Wyandotte County Unified Government .
If a person believes they have been wrongfully convicted of a crime or have experienced a constitutional due process violation, they can visit the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office website at www.wycokck.org/DA/CIU.aspx and fill out an application to have their case reviewed and investigated.
If the application is found to have a credible question of fact or issues of law, a defense lawyer or the KU Innocence Project may become involved to represent the defendant.
Fast-forward three years. The world watched as George Floyd was murdered on television by an officer who was sworn to protect and serve.
The question arose; how could this have happened? Especially after it was discovered the officer had over 10 complaints of excessive force against him. My office did an internal review, and it was discovered we typically did not receive excessive force complaints either.
This is because if a resident has an excessive force or police misconduct complaint, they are required to report the complaint to the same agency they have the complaint against. Additionally, the same police department conducts the investigation into its own officers.
The community demanded action. Born out of the second crisis of corruption, the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office renamed the Conviction Integrity Unit to the Community Integrity Unit. With the name change also came an expansion of its function to also receive and investigate allegations of police misconduct.
The mission of the Community Integrity Unit is to promptly, fairly, and impartially investigate citizen complaints against individual officers of the various Wyandotte County Law Enforcement Agencies.
By using data to look for ways to make continuous improvement, the CIU will make policy recommendations regarding law enforcement practices involving Wyandotte County citizens.
The Community Integrity Unit’s goals are to ensure community safety, enhance community police relations, and provide an independent review process for minor to misdemeanor complaints involving individual officers of Wyandotte County Law Enforcement Agencies.
The Community Integrity Unit’s funding request was recently granted by the Unified Government. To review citizen complaints, the CIU will house two certified law enforcement investigators and a senior assistant district attorney. The unit will conduct impartial investigations into complaints of alleged police misconduct and alleged inadequate services involving the various law enforcement agencies that serve Wyandotte County. The unit will compile data and convey the issues, concerns, and needs of the community to the heads of the law enforcement agencies and will report back to the community.
Beginning in September 2020, anyone can file a complaint. Complaints may be submitted via email or the hotline number, by a person who witnesses or experiences alleged law enforcement misconduct. The complainant must leave his/her name and contact information. A complainant can file regardless of their age, immigration status, or potential incarceration that may be related to their interaction with the law enforcement contact. The complainant will be personally contacted by the CIU within three days for further details and follow-up.
Once the completed complaint is received, the investigation will begin. The investigation may include interviewing civilian witnesses, other law enforcement officers, a review of any law enforcement reports generated, a review of law enforcement policies and procedures, medical records, photographs, videos, or other evidence created as a result of the citizen and law enforcement contact.
In the event a complaint ends with a finding of misconduct, a report is forwarded to the head of the law enforcement agency for further actions. If warranted by the investigation, the Unit will report its findings to the Wyandotte County District Attorney to file charges. Whether or not the unit makes a finding of misconduct, the unit will notify the complainant of its findings.
The District Attorney’s office is responsible for serving the entire community. We saw the crises and corruption unfold with Mr. McIntyre’s case and Mr. Floyd’s murder and responded by creating processes to create transparency, accountability, and foster community trust in hopes to avoid these types of crises again.