A bill before the Kansas Senate would require police departments to provide officers under investigation for misconduct with all the evidence against them before the department can interview them as part of an internal investigation.
SB 131 – the law enforcement and corrections officers’ bill of rights – would require departments to inform an officer whether he could be arrested before beginning an interrogation interview and to record any interrogation of an officer.
The bill, which has been referred to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, requires law enforcement agencies to hand over the complaint, all witness statements, incident reports, GPS location information and video or audio recordings being used as evidence to the officer under investigation before an interview can begin.
It also requires that interrogations include rest periods and take place at a reasonable hour.
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The bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, on behalf of a constituent, a former police officer. He said it was modeled on a Florida law.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, who shares an office with Holland, took exception with the bill, which he says grants law enforcement officers rights not extended to the general public.
“We should have equal rights under the law. I don’t know that once you assume a badge that you’re suddenly assigned this superhero immunity status,” Haley said. “And I don’t think that’s a good signal to send to the general public.”
Haley has been one of the main proponents of requiring law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, which he says will add more transparency to investigations into officer-involved shootings and claims of excessive force.
If the changes to interrogation techniques are good policy for law enforcement officers, they should be extended to all suspects, said Haley, who has advocated in the past that all felony interrogations be videotaped.
Holland said he wasn’t seeking to grant officers protections that the general public doesn’t have.
“That’s certainly not my intent,” Holland said. “The intent once again is just to have a due process so that once again when a policeman’s accused of something, he or she has a process they go through to make sure things are properly checked out.”
Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, who chairs the Corrections Committee, said that at first reading he was unsure of the need for the legislation, noting that federal case law already offers protections to law enforcement officers so they do not have to incriminate themselves if interrogated.
“There’s parts in that bill that give me pause. One is that it sounds an awful lot like union stuff,” Smith said. “I don’t necessarily agree with anything that offers (extra job protections)…if I wouldn’t do it for teachers, I don’t think I’m going to do it for law enforcement.”