When Marion, Kans., needed a police chief, Gideon Cody was willing. The Kansas City Police Department captain and 24-year veteran of the force didn’t balk at taking a nearly $56,000 annual pay cut. He wasn’t turned off by leaving a Missouri department with more than 1,000 officers to lead a Kansas department with just five. He didn’t mind moving from the big city to a rural town of about 1,900 residents, the Kansas City Star reports. None of that proved too suspicious for Marion’s city council, which appointed him chief in May. A few months later, Cody’s decision to raid the local newspaper turned him into one of the most well-known police chiefs in the U.S. and placed a spotlight on a career in Kansas City, headed toward possible discipline and demotion over alleged insulting and sexist comments before he left for Marion.
“I did not conduct a full or official background investigation,” Marion council member Zach Collett said at a council meeting, adding that he took it upon himself to look into Cody as the council searched for a chief this spring while lacking a city administrator. Collett said he had shared with his fellow council members what he was able to find, but acknowledged “it’s been inferred that I should have found more.” While Cody’s search of the newspaper has drawn national attention to Marion and the process that led to his hiring, an investigation by The Star found gaps in Kansas’ safeguards for identifying and weeding out problematic officers. These weaknesses continue to allow people under suspicion of misconduct or questionable behavior to slip into new jobs and apparent fresh starts. Interviews of current and former law enforcement officials, local leaders, policing experts and lawmakers found that Kansas has taken steps to prevent officers from withholding damaging information but doesn’t mandate local leaders thoroughly vet officers before hiring them.