Kansas Legislative Committee Pushes Bill That Would Make It A Felony To File False Complaints Against A Police Officer

from the a-short-bill,-broken-all-over dept

How can you tell if an introduced bill is a bad piece of legislation? Well, there are several indicators to look for — overly broad language, written as a reaction to a recent tragedy — but when a bill is referred to as the “retaliation bill” by a large majority of the press, the problems are right there on the surface. (h/t to Techdirt reader Rekrul)

The Kansas legislature’s Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice recently introduced a bill with some very chilling implications for citizens.

The bill, titled “filing false complaints against a law enforcement officer,” was introduced in February by the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice and moved quickly to the Taxation Committee before ending March 13 in the Committee for Transportation and Public Safety Budget. In its one-hour Tuesday hearing, according to the legislative research department, only one person spoke in favor of the bill while eight others, including legislators and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke against it…

According to the bill, a complaint over a law enforcement officer that a department finds to be false “shall be closed immediately and the law enforcement agency shall seek criminal prosecution against the complaint for perjury.” All complaints would be submitted with a signed affidavit that included the time, date, place and nature of the offense. Current law requires that law enforcement departments review all complaints, whether anonymous or signed.

This bill, currently stalled, would make it a felony to file a false complaint against a police officer, something that used to be handled via civil litigation. And there would be no option for filing anonymous complaints, which would further discourage the reporting of alleged police misconduct.

In addition, officers would be allowed to view the complaint and any related evidence before making a statement, giving accused officers a chance to craft narratives before issuing statements that might be contradicted by the evidence submitted. The complaint’s lack of anonymity would give accused officers the name, address, phone number, etc. of their accuser, something that could easily lead to harassment. (Of course, law enforcement agencies could strip this information before presenting it to the accused officer [the bill contains no stipulation to do so], but how many here believe that would actually happen — or that the information couldn’t be accessed otherwise?)

Also problematic is the fact that the bill stipulates that “no other law enforcement agency” can open an investigation on a complaint if another agency has performed an investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing. This would keep all investigations “in-house,” which greatly contributes to the likelihood that complaints will be found false (and subsequently, result in felony charges against the filer). This would prevent agencies like the FBI and DOJ from investigating closed complaints to see if anything was missed or covered up. This stipulation would further insulate police from accountability.

The bill is so bad even the attorney for the local police union (the entity that usually works hard to restore bad cops to their former positions) found the wording somewhat problematic.

The one person who testified in favor of the bill Tuesday was Sean McCauley, an attorney for the Kansas chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Kansas State Troopers Association. While he had reservations about allowing departments to pursue charges for unfounded or minor allegations, local FOP President Sgt. Tyson Meyers did see some value in the bill.

“I’d like to protect officers against false allegations,” he said, stating officers can be subject to administrative leave following a complaint or suffer from a tarnished reputation even if the allegation is proved to be false.

“At the same time, we should police our own and have the integrity to monitor our department.”

He also added that it was a bad idea to limit complaint investigations to one department, noting that previous investigations by outside agencies had led to the rooting out of bad cops who otherwise would have gone unpunished.

As it stands now, the bill is effectively dead. The coverage of the bill has been universally negative, and after its nearly one-sided showing during its floor appearance, no further discussions on the bill have been scheduled. The question remains as to why such a bill, loaded with negative side effects for the public, was ever introduced, as well as who exactly is behind it. The committee page lists several names, but the bill’s sponsor is the committee itself, rather than a certain legislator. Safety in numbers applies to bad legislation, it seems. The bill seeks to out anonymous complainants, but has been shepherded into the public forum by no one in particular.

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Comments on “Kansas Legislative Committee Pushes Bill That Would Make It A Felony To File False Complaints Against A Police Officer”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

What's good for the goose is Not good for the gander

So, I’m assuming it is, or would be should this nightmare of a bill pass, a felony for a cop to accuse, or file false charges against, a citizen then, right?


Yeah, they might as well have called it the ‘Untouchables bill’, since something like this would make police in that area completely immune to any repercussions for their actions, no matter what they did, as long as their ‘internal investigation’ cleared them.

Given how skewed this would make things in favor of corrupt cops, I can only assume a few too many of them got caught lying and/or abusing their authority, and wanted some way to strike back at those ‘making them look bad’.

Anonymous Coward says:

While I agree that this is a bad bill

“This would prevent agencies like the FBI and DOJ from investigating closed complaints to see if anything was missed or covered up.”

Not if this is a statewide law. Federal law overrides state law, this would only apply to investigations within the jurisdiction of the state.

ShivaFang (profile) says:

This is interesting… because in order for the Felony to stick they have to actually prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of peers that the Complaint is false.

In other words, they have to prove the innocence of the cop the complaint was filed against.

You can’t prove a negative (that’s why trials are innocent until proven guilty in pretty much every free society) – but this law seeks to do just that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think you are overestimating how citizen-friendly the bill would be. Based on the Techdirt piece, the police would present that citizen John Doe signed this affidavit alleging Officer Crook did something bad and that Internal Affairs determined that Officer Crook had done nothing wrong. Based on these two factors, the department would then move to have John Doe charged with a felony. Actual innocence of Officer Crook is irrelevant and need not be proved. The report from Internal Affairs would be sufficient proof that the complaint was false.

Rekrul says:

I’m starting to wonder if there’s something in the water in Kansas that is slowly driving people insane. Another bill being pushed would require doctors to report all miscarriages so that a possible investigation can be launched. Oh, they also stripped funding from Planned Parenthood.


the truth says:

Are you awake yet?

They own EVERYTHING and you have never had control of anything! You have always had a master and chose to have a master and not fight back!

All you sheep deserve where you are rich now for handing over all your rights! Only YOU yourself have then power to change this! Actions speak louder than words, words are cumbersum and the ancients didn’t use them!

There sociopathic gay pheodophile phycopaths (FACT) that steal children and sacrifice them in barbaric rituals. The weak surround them and protect them because they are manipulated/controlled through fear. Many people live in cognitive disadence and until these scum bags are removed and centralisation is stopped, nothing g will change!

alternatives() says:

Perjury you say?

shall seek criminal prosecution against the complaint for perjury.


A review of the past and how much Courts have cared about perjury in the United States is in order.

prosecutor E. Michael McCann has concluded, “Outside of income tax evasion, perjury is?probably the most underprosecuted crime in America.”

At least tax issues have excuses like:
Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly. For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household. All 46 of them came up with a different result. In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household. All five of them came up with a different result

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Perjury you say?

Perjury against a cop though, and you can bet the ones filing the charges would emphasize the ‘cop’ angle as much as possible to make it seem all the worse.

Add to that the fact that judges and courts are already quite cop friendly and this would likely be one of the instances where it is seen as a serious crime in need of ‘punishment’.

Anonymous Coward says:

“the bill stipulates that “no other law enforcement agency” can open an investigation on a complaint if another agency has performed an investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing”

YEEEE HAAAW! jethro, now that’s just the way we-all run thangs ’round these pawts…

Bull Conners would have killed with, er I mean, for, this kind of power.

btr1701 (profile) says:


> This would prevent agencies like the FBI and DOJ
> from investigating closed complaints to see if anything
> was missed or covered up.

That’s ridiculous. The FBI investigates based on violations of federal law (public corruption laws, etc.). The State of Kansas has no jurisdiction over what the FBI can and cannot investigate and has no legal authority to limit them. Only Congress can do that.

zip says:

Homeless as target practice

This kind of makes me wonder if the fear of formal complaints is the only thing that keeps police from treating “ordinary” citizens like they routinely treat homeless vagrants, who are unlikely to ever file complaints (or have family members around to do so) and perhaps as a result, tend to receive the most brutal form of police interaction.

News of the Albuquerque police shooting dead a homeless schizophrenic a few days ago has *FINALLY* resulted in the FBI getting off their butts and opening a *CRIMINAL* investigation of excessive police violence. Let’s pray that these kind of investigations –and hopefully prosecutions– by the DOJ won’t remain as rare as hen’s teeth.


AntiFish03 (profile) says:

The wording is wrong for this

As a former LEO this could have been very beneficial.

While I had no complaints, I have to say that there are many officers that have had false complaints made against them several times. In fact in one of those occurrences, I was interviewed on an incident that I wrote the report for. The complaint was that another officer used excessive force.

The incident was the arrest of 3 people with significant amounts of “Cheese” (Heroine + Tylenol PM) they also had the scales, baggies etc. so the arrest was for manufacturing of a controlled substance. One of the three individuals decided to be stupid and balled his fists and raised them to a fighting position. The officer in question was very close to the idiot and executed a simple leg sweep and the loud verbal command to get on the ground, there was no further use of force on anyones part the officers or the arrested persons. The arrested persons head hit the concrete and we called for EMS to evaluate his injuries. Everything was completely by the book and following procedures. In fact the reason that I wrote the report was because the officer that was originally the lead officer, and the one that used the leg sweep cannot write his own use of force report. My point is that some of the biggest PITA arrests are not the ones that most people think, they are actually the ones that are the more mundane.

Some, people think that if they make a complaint against an officer that they will have a way to get out of the punishment for their crimes. Its a stupid thought, as a proper report and following procedures will remove any doubt what is going on and I believe that the bill in this article was meant to make the complaints like that less likely. Criminals seem to think that if they can disparage the officers credibility then they can get off with no sentence or a lighter one. When in reality they should be larger sentences for perjury or something similar.

And if you look at things from an officers point of view, you meet people constantly on the worst days / moments of their lives. Most officers that I know, and the biggest reason that I wanted to become an officer is to help people, to make a difference in another persons life.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: The wording is wrong for this

I understand the sentiment. The problem, though, is twofold. First, there are many instances where legitimate complaints should be filed but aren’t because of fear of police retribution already. Adding more muscle for the police to punish complainers will likely make people even more reluctant to file legitimate complaints. This is particularly true given that many police departments are utterly incapable of policing their own officers and, in fact, do just the opposite.

If the cops actually need this sort of power, I think they should prove that they are trustworthy enough to handle it. They could do this by adopting a culture that does not tolerate police misbehavior. I’m not talking just about the management level, but at the cop-on-the-beat level. Right now, the culture seems to be the exact opposite of that, which is why so many law-abiding citizens consider the police to be dangerous.

So first the police need to get their houses in order. Then we can talk about expanding their powers.

AntiFish03 (profile) says:

Re: Re: The wording is wrong for this

I agree that there are departments that need to be cleaned up but I still hold that the complaint system is flawed. Especially, in a very large city, its flawed because my situation above could have gone the other way, if I hadn’t written a detailed and exacting report, or if I hadn’t had the time to write a detailed report. I got lucky that it was a slow day and I could take my time. If it had been an ordinary day the summary above would have been about the length of the entire report. There are several reasons most of them come back to lack of man power, a couple of others come back to drug issues.

I guess the ultimate reason I provided my experience above is that this comment board is full of people that have either had bad dealings with or just a natural hatred of the police officer. There are a few bad cops out there that make it much more difficult for the good cops to do their job. A visible officer doing his job in a the proper way will never make the news. Hell, officers that go above and beyond barely make the news. Good cops don’t make great ratings… but reporting on a bad cop makes a career, for a reporter.

I knew a fellow officer that did absolutely nothing wrong but was crucified by the media, and hung out to dry by the city:

The officer in question was sitting near an intersection about 2.5 miles from a major hospital. A blacked out SUV runs the stop sign. The officer turns on his lights and attempts a traffic stop. The SUV continues to the hospital running through a total of 4 red lights and 3 more stop signs. When the vehicle finally stops at the hospital. The driver who is about 6’4 and weighs about 260 lbs with a very muscular build, jumps out of the vehicle and runs toward the squad car. As a former officer I can safely state that after following someone for 2.5 miles with lights and siren on there is a heightened state of alert on the part of the officer. And the location for trouble doesn’t matter that much. The officer loudly orders the driver to stop, and to see his hands. When the driver doesn’t immediately respond and stop his movement towards the officer, the officer has no choice but to see it as a threat and drew his duty pistol. At gun point the driver becomes compliant and follows the officers instructions. The officer places the driver into handcuffs for officer safety reasons, and does a pat down for weapons, at this point other officers begin arriving (yes he played lone wolf… his only honest mistake). At this point the officer is able to find out what the cause to the traffic violations was. the drivers mother-in-law, was terminally ill in the hospital and was not expected to live more than a few more minutes and the driver was racing to get his wife and children to the hospital to say goodbye. As I know the officer I can say that he has several times escorted people to the hospital for such occurrences, and the driver only needed to stop when the officer turned on his lights, he would have likely gotten a warning from the officer and an escort. Instead the driver, his wife and children were detained. Now the reason that this officer was crucified for doing his job and following procedure. The driver was an NFL player and decided to involve the media in the situation, and the city instead of protecting him, gave his home address the the media.

All situations have points of view, and our media is about ratings not necessarily about truth or unbiased facts. I also would bet that even in situations that an officer made a mistake and was in the wrong that they are still a very small percentage of the time. If you compare the number of calls for service, traffic stops and observable crimes to the number of complaints the percentage is a very small fraction of a percent. And the media would have us believe that it is much higher.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The wording is wrong for this

My issue is not the minority of cops (and I do believe it’s a minority) that are simply awful people. My issue is that the “good” cops rally around and protect them rather than doing what they should do, which is hang them out to dry. This is what makes the police generally untrustworthy, and is what I mean when I talk about police culture.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re: The wording is wrong for this

“this comment board is full of people that have either had bad dealings with or just a natural hatred of the police officer.”

Maybe the root of the problem is that much the public has no idea of the proper way to deal with cops, and education is seriously in order. Even with taking a Driver’s Ed. class, I had no idea that stepping out of my car so I could finally extract my wallet from my front pants pocket (facing the other direction, mind you) would nearly get me killed. Just for driving a car with (legal) temporary plates.

And had I ended up being shot dead, the slaying would presumably have been perfectly lawful, since that’s (apparently) how all law enforcement schools in the USA train future cops to act in that situation.

I’d love to see the day when the “SWAT team” culture is reversed and cops start treating people like human beings again — instead of seeing everyone as enemy combatants needing to be neutralized.

AntiFish03 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The wording is wrong for this

Remember a traffic stop is one of the most dangerous things an officer does on a daily basis, which is why they are so alert when they do them. More officers are killed during a traffic stop than any other activity.

My tip for dealing with cops is to remember that covert/concealed movements will always be regarded as dangerous to a officer so always wait to be asked to do something, Or tell the officer that you are doing it. Its thankfully not rocket science.

Also remember this if you ever want to get sympathy/empathy from the officer don’t ever just start yelling at the officer, especially when pulled over on a traffic violation… There is a special way to handle those people and it starts with the officer taking his time looking for every single violation on a car or that you made. Arguing with a cop is stupid everywhere, cops do sometimes have discretion and other times don’t.

There is a city near me that is NOT civil service protected and its officers have a mandatory citation policy set by the chief. If you are pulled over you will receive a citation every time (including officers… there is no professional courtesy even).

But anyways cops become dicks because of the situation. Its honestly not personal. At the end of the day most officers just want to help people and make the community better, unfortunately becoming jaded comes with the territory of being an officer. And ultimately they want to go home safely to their families, and in every situation they are involved in has at least on firearm present.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The wording is wrong for this

“Remember a traffic stop is one of the most dangerous things an officer does on a daily basis”

I don’t have any statistics on this, but I suspect that a traffic stop may be far more dangerous for the civilian being pulled over.

Knowing they will need to show documents, there’s a natural tendency for people to start the process of getting them out without thinking to first ask and wait for permission. But of course the act of reaching in a pocket, under the seat, or in a handbag (or making any rapid movement whatsoever) could very well get them killed. Sadly, too many people don’t seem to understand this, and even worse, DMV booklets never point this out.

Maybe if everyone who gets pulled over in a traffic stop took the situation as seriously as a bank teller facing an armed robber, there would be a lot fewer accidental deaths.

There was a recent report put out by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights that criticized the enormous (by international standards) number of police shootings in the US. If I can find it I’ll post a link.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The wording is wrong for this

Here’s a thing though, those bogus complaints, what’s the worst thing that could happen to a cop due to them?

Put under review, be docked pay some, maybe put on paid leave while the complaint is investigated? If the complaint really is bogus, I don’t see it going much farther than that.

On the other hand, a law like this would turn the ones making those complaints into felons, even if the complaint was valid but was found by the ‘internal investigation’ to be groundless for whatever reason.

That’s ‘He pointed his finger at me so I shot him’ logic, and should in no way be considered a reasonable response to false claims, cops or not.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The wording is wrong for this

If even complaints that are found to be groundless are enough to screw up a ‘perfect record’ for someone, and get in the way of promotions and whatnot, the answer is to fix the internal system/mindset that treats bogus complaints the same as valid ones, not make it a gorram felony to file complaints in the first place.

Even then, with those positions that require perfect records and whatnot, say a bogus complaint screws that up for them, does it mean they’re fired, demoted, moved to a different position with less stringent requirements?

Also, and here’s the really important question: do any of the possibilities come anywhere near facing a felony charge and having that on your record?

As has been noted several times now, what a citizen faces for being found to have filed a ‘false’ complaint(regardless of whether or not it was actually valid), is no where near what a cop faces being on the receiving end of that complaint, should this nightmare of a bill pass.

AntiFish03 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The wording is wrong for this

“As a former LEO this could have been very beneficial.”

You know in the very first comment of this thread I only stated that something would be beneficial, what I guess I left out was that I don’t care for a lot of things in this. The penalty is too high would be my biggest complaint, it doesn’t need to be a felony but something that says filing a false complaint is wrong and illegal maybe similar to the “filing a false police report” statue which is a class C misdemeanor, (same level as a speeding ticket).

Also, I don’t like lowering the investigative standard. No one is going to have all the facts to piece together any complaint made so making it difficult for other agencies to investigate is wrong.

And think of it this way… if you want to leave patrol and be a detective you can pretty much forget it with a complaint, even a bogus one. You will be stuck for the most part where you are in patrol, because you are possible damaged goods and no other section is going to want to deal with the issues if it comes out that the complaint really should have been sustained against you. And forget changing departments as well most will not want to hire an officer that has had a complaint for the same reason.

So, if you are say 25 years old have been on the dept for 4 years or so you should be about to get a choice of duties beyond patrol. Maybe vice, arson, homocide, CAPERS(Crimes Against PERsons), SWAT, DUI Squad, burglary, Criminal Evidence Division… etc… and you get a complaint, you might have only the property room as a possible new assignment, depends on the complaint. Patrol is something that some people love others want to make detective, and get out of. But there are very few officers that make it to retirement as a patrolman.

AntiFish03 (profile) says:

Re: Re: The wording is wrong for this

I am not going to say that officers don’t make mistakes… because they do. and in the following story I followed procedure completely and everything was done exactly right.

I am going to share the incident that caused me to question being an officer. I was on patrol with my trainer (yes I was a rookie at the time probably a month out of the academy) a request by another officer for assistance came out over the radio, to assist with an occupied stolen vehicle. As we catch up to the other squad car he executes a standard traffic stop. Amazingly, the driver decides to pull over, but this is still a felony stop so verbal commands to the driver and his 2 passengers are given over the PA. As the cover element our job was to deal with the driver. The driver was a kid in his late teens 17-18 years old, about 5’10 and 130 lbs. Not wearing a shirt, and has gang tats on his back and chest. As he steps out of the vehicle he abruptly reaches for his waist band after having been ordered to keep his hands straight out the the side. Thankfully, this event doesn’t end with a dead kid right there, he realized that the motion he made of reaching for his waist band was a very stupid move to make. From there the arrest was uneventful except for having to de-cock the hammer on my duty pistol which actually locked back during his movement. 1/16th of an inch longer pull on my duty pistol and the kid would have died right then, as an additional note with both my trainer and the officer we were covering had to de-cock as well.

If I had fired my use of force was completely justified, given he was committing a felony, he had been given loud verbal commands over a loud speaker, which he decided to ignore for a moment, and the action he decided to make was possibly very deadly, when an officer already has you at gun point and you are being ordered to exit a vehicle any action that is seen as agressive is going to be met with force, especially if you no longer can see his hands.

So if you want to belive that is That’s ‘He pointed his finger at me so I shot him’ logic, and should in no way be considered a reasonable response to false claims, cops or not. So be it but you have to realize a couple of other things with this.
Who’s choice was it to steal a car?
Who’s choice was it to willfuly make an overt gesture towards their waist band, that officers could not see?
Who’s choice created the events that led to a direct confrontation with officers?

zip says:

Re: Re: Re: The wording is wrong for this

“Who’s choice was it to … Who’s choice was it to … Who’s choice was it to … “

It’s a mistake to assume that every person you encounter is thinking and acting rationally. Many are not. Does that make the drunk, the drugged, the blind, the deaf, the mentally retarded, and the mentally ill “fair game”?

Judging by the number of (reported) police shootings, mentally ill people would seem to be an especially vulnerable group who are often killed by cops who are simply “going by the book” — but do they really deserve to die for simply “doing something stupid”?

AntiFish03 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The wording is wrong for this

The problem that you are pointing out here is known by police and again there are actually procedures for it. Large numbers of officers being the safest way, for everyone involved. drugged induced psychosis/exited delirium are supposed to be handled by 5+ officers so that you can safely control the arrested person. (Just remember its not always possible to get enough officers to do a 5 man takedown) I also want to submit this situation to you this is pretty much a recurring nightmare that officers have.


zip says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The wording is wrong for this

I would think (or at least hope) that a primary goal of any police action is to not unnecessarily provoke people. The guy in the video gave himself up willingly and cooperated fully (at least at first). It was only after the deputy slammed his head into the car hood (and probably said something) that the guy suddenly jumped up and took a fighting stance. Why didn’t the deputy continue to back away –and radio for help — instead of quickly advancing on the guy with pepper spray?

Some people have a hair-trigger temper, but will usually calm down on their own if given a little time and breathing-space. I’m not trying to excuse the guy’s behavior, but I’ve always wondered why cops so often provoke and escalate a violent situation that could easily have been avoided in the first place.

After all, wasn’t this guy’s only “crime” speeding?

zip says:

Re: Re: Re:5 The wording is wrong for this

He only became aggressive AFTER the deputy slammed his head down. He only became violent AFTER being maced. I see it as a multi-stage provoked reaction. (An unprovoked reaction would have been to sucker-punch the deputy while getting out of the car)

But since not everyone completely and unconditionally respects authority, isn’t it just plain common sense that whenever having to deal with a much bigger person –especially alone– it’s a good idea to put him in handcuffs BEFORE you start shoving him around?

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

If this passes cops basically become immune to all prosecution.
Step 1: The cop shoots you for “looking funny- maybe you were going to attack him”.
Step 2: You file a complaint, assuming you survive.
Step 3: The cop’s buddies in Internal Affairs find no evidence of wrongdoing. No other agency can investigate and find evidence they swept under the carpet.
Step 4: You get charged with a felony and go to jail.
Step 4: Repeat until the cop runs of of innocent targets to shoot at.

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