The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation of employment practices at the Kansas City Police Department to determine if the force engaged in racial discrimination. Police Chief Joseph Mabin said the department was notified Monday by the Civil Rights Division of the investigation and that the department was cooperating, reports the Kansas City Star. He said, “It is the policy and practice of the Board of Police Commissioners and the Kansas City Missouri Police Department to provide a work atmosphere free of actual or perceived discrimination and harassment ... I am committed to ensuring every member experiences a safe and fair work environment and every applicant receives fair treatment throughout the hiring process.” Kristen Clarke, who runs the Civil Rights Division, said its investigation is based on information that suggests Kansas City might be “engaged in certain employment practices that discriminate against Black officers and applicants, including those that have a disparate impact based on race, in entry level hiring, promotions and assignments to Detective, in imposing discipline, and by maintaining a hostile work environment.”
The news comes months after the Star published a series of stories examining allegations of racism and harassment in the police force. The newspaper found that the number of Black officers was lower than it had been decades ago, that Black officers were disproportionately disciplined, and at least 18 officers had left because of racist treatment over a 15-year period. The Star’s yearlong investigation told of Herb Robinson, a Black detective who believes he was racially profiled by two of his colleagues. A stop was caught on dash camera, in which his colleagues can be heard calling him a “dumbass” and a “retard.” “I might have been taken down to the ground. I might have been shot,” said Robinson, who is now a sergeant and has since sued the department. “I might have reached in my car to get my ID to prove (that he was a police officer) and been shot.” Another story told of Titus Golden, a Black officer who fought against a policy that he believed showed clear racial discrimination. The policy required officers to be shaved during the pandemic so their masks fit. Black cops who said they needed to keep a beard for medical purposes were disciplined, while white officers flouted the policy and wore beards, Golden said.