Sometimes, it is the police who need to be investigated, and this is one of those cases.
Last week, a 22-year-old Kansas City man was finally sentenced to 10 years in prison for sodomizing a girl in 2012.
In some cases, of course, justice takes time — there is a delay in reporting, or there is not enough physical evidence, or a suspect is nowhere to be found. But that is not what happened here.
On the contrary, detectives had DNA evidence and testimony from the victim — a girl identified in court records as younger than 14. She immediately told her family what had happened, and they quickly brought her in to talk to the police.
And then? No one bothered to interview the suspect, Tyrell L. Staten, for three years.
As The Star has reported, members of the girl’s family told police she was asleep in her bedroom when they let Staten, whom they knew, into the house. The next day, the girl told them that Staten had sodomized her as she tried to fight him off. The day after that, they contacted the police.
Last week, in Jackson County Circuit Court, Staten pleaded guilty to one count of statutory sodomy. And he still faces charges in another case, in which he stands accused of shooting his fiancee on Valentine’s Day, an attack she would have obviously been spared if cops had bestirred themselves on the rape case a few years earlier.
The sodomy case was reported while the Police Department’s Crimes Against Children unit was in meltdown mode. Some 148 cases were mishandled or simply not investigated at all, sometimes for more than a year.
In September 2015, a new team of police investigators was assigned to look into the backlog. Two months later, police at last interviewed and arrested Staten.
Two months later still, two sergeants and seven detectives were suspended from the unit.
All have been reassigned since then, including Detective Travis Menuey, who was originally assigned to investigate the Staten case.
An internal affairs investigation into this “systemic failure” was supposed to be finished in March but is still going on.
Meanwhile, the fallout from the failures of the past continues, too.
Because getting a conviction in any rape case is so difficult, it is particularly frustrating to see one in which police had everything they needed to take an offender off the street but simply did not follow through.
As soon as possible, the public deserves to know how it can be sure that this kind of dereliction can never happen again and that the detectives responsible have been disciplined.