The rumors started swirling through the Kansas City Police Department earlier this month: Did you hear about the police major who showed up at a reported crime scene and ordered officers out of the house, forcing them to leave behind a marijuana growing operation?
It sounded outrageous. And that was the first clue that there was probably more to the story.
After reporting for The Star for 18 years, I’ve learned that seemingly outrageous stories often become less so after investigating.
Some stories do live up to the hype. Such as the Johnson County man who reallydid
cut out his eyeball in 1995 because he thought he saw a pentagram in his iris. He then flushed it down a toilet.
But let’s get back to the marijuana-left-behind caper. It started with a 911 call.
Someone reported that a gunman had beaten a woman and dragged her into a house. Officers showed up and found a man standing at the back door. But he didn’t match the description of the gunman.
A woman then came out of the house. She was not hurt, and she didn’t match the description of the victim. Still, the officers wanted to make sure everyone was OK. They started searching the house and spied a few small plants that looked like marijuana.
About this time, police Maj. Anthony Ell showed up. He is one of two majors (Melvin Harvey is the other) assigned to new jobs, called “staff inspection,” by Police Chief Darryl Forté. They started their jobs last month.
Forté told them to show up at crime scenes, car stops and all sorts of police situations big and small throughout the city to ensure officers are complying with department policies and acting professionally. They also are supposed to troubleshoot, offer resources and bring a broader view to a situation because officers can get narrowly focused handling the chaos of quickly evolving crime scenes.
Ell didn’t think the officers should search the house because there was no confirmed crime. He also was wary of the 911 caller, who wanted to remain anonymous. Ell knew there had been ongoing disputes among neighbors.
Although the officers told Ell they saw suspicious plants inside, no one could say for sure they were marijuana, and no one referred to it as a “grow operation,” so Ell told them to leave.
In retrospect, Ell said he may have underestimated the intimidation factor of his rank. An officer with knowledge of the incident said the responding officers feared they would come across as argumentative if they pursued the marijuana angle with Ell.
“It created a situation where I didn’t have all the information,” said Ell, who was refreshingly candid about what happened. He pledged to work on communicating better with officers.
“It’s just communication and people getting used to it,” he said of his new role.
To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.