Kansas Considers A “Punish Complainers & Silence Critics” Bill

Just to review, in Kansas you can be SWAT-raided and never be permitted to learn the basis for the warrant. This means the police can get a warrant for bogus reasons and reasonably expect that, if their victims are innocent, they will never be able to call them into an account.

So naturally, the Kansas state legislature has decided to add official protections to the police so that they are still more invulnerable to public scrutiny.

The bill is, thankfully, stalled at the moment, but it is not dead. It is called the “filing false complaints against a law enforcement officer” bill.

Filing a false complaint is already a crime under civil law.  This bill, however, not only adds the new felony definition, but it makes several other changes. Here is TechDirt’s list (my bullet points).

  • 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.
  • 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.

I’m not as certain as Tim Cushing at TechDirt that forbidding anonymous complaints is a bad thing, though it is certainly wrong to give the accusers name and contact data to the accused police officer(s).

Hopefully, this bill is stalled because everyone realizes how bad it is. Ironically, the sponsors of the bill are not named because an entire committee proposed the law. As Cushing remarks, “safety in numbers.”

I realize that police can be falsely accused. But I have to balance that consideration with this basic question: How often does a police officer get held accountable for making a false accusation against a non-police officer?

In my view, the answer is almost never. This bill needs to be trashed, not passed.