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‘It has been an honor’: KCK Police Chief Terry Zeigler announces plan to retire

Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Terry Zeigler said he plans to retire later this year in an announcement shared on social media Wednesday.

Zeigler, who has been the police chief for four and a half years, serving 29 years total with the department in his law enforcement career, said his retirement will go into effect Sept. 11.

“It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Kansas City, Kansas, and the men and women of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department for the last four and a half years as Chief of Police,” Zeigler said in a statement.

“The men and women of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department are some of the finest folks in law enforcement today. Their dedication to service and duty has been a source of inspiration and motivation to me.”

Unified Government Mayor David Alvey and County Administrator Doug Bach thanked Zeigler for his service.

“He will be remembered for his devotion to our citizens, his pride in his officers and staff, and his hard work and professionalism spanning nearly three decades,” Alvey said in a statement. “Our city is a better place because of Chief Ziegler’s commitment to protect and serve.”

Bach, who appointed Zeigler to the chief position after an extensive search in 2014, described Zeigler as “a great police chief,” who “has led efforts to reduce crime and improve morale in the Police Department.”

He added he plans to announce his pick as acting police chief in the next couple of weeks while the search for a permanent replacement is underway.

In a 2016 profile by The Star, Zeigler said he joined the department in 1990 and had “done it all,” working in the patrol unit, motorcycle unit, narcotics, internal affairs, night response and homicide.

According to the report, he helped the FBI for two years with anti-terrorism work after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Since then, he’s moved through the ranks, promoted to police chief toward the end of 2014. Before he was named police chief, Zeigler was overseeing the department’s operations bureau, according to a previous report by The Star.

It was during Zeigler’s tenure as chief that two of the department’s officers were shot and killed in two separate incidents.

Detective Brad Lancaster, 39, was shot multiple times by a man police were pursuing. He died May 9, 2016, after suffering seven gunshot wounds.

Then, on July 19, 2016, Police Capt. Robert David “Dave” Melton, 46, was fatally shot while assisting other officers searching for suspects in a drive-by shooting.

The summer of 2016, Zeigler described to The Star back then, was “probably the most difficult time I’ve ever had on the police department.”

“You come up through the organization and there’s a lot of good work that’s done every day … and people pour their heart out for this community and you know the risks,” Zeigler said in 2016. “But you fall in love with the people and what this profession stands for. Then when two officers get killed doing their job, trying to apprehend suspects, man, that is a tough pill to swallow.”

Two years later, in the summer of 2018, two Wyandotte County sheriff’s deputies were killed while transporting a prisoner, once again causing pain in the local law enforcement community.

In his announcement Wednesday, Zeigler highlighted some work the police department accomplished during his time as chief, pointing to the department adopting a mandatory crisis intervention program in 2015; establishing two crime-fighting initiatives, Project ACT and ICON; and embracing and engaging with citizens through the department’s community policing program.

Scrutiny

While some have praised Zeigler for his leadership over the years in the police department, others have called for scrutiny.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation earlier this year into whether the chief had “double dipped” when he took time off to work on a lake house property he leased from the Unified Government. The investigation was turned over to the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office in May.

Then in June, dozens of people marched to police headquarters and demanded the mayor to fire Zeigler after a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of a former police cadet who said she was fired after reporting she was sexually assaulted by a supervising officer.

A local social justice advocacy group called Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, also known as MORE2, led the protest last month and called for Zeigler’s firing, alleging “disregard and cover-up” of sexual violence “perpetrated by law enforcement officers.”

Police at the time responded by saying anyone with information about police misconduct is asked to report it through its hotline or Internal Affairs office.

After news surfaced of Zeigler’s retirement, the organization issued a statement, calling Wednesday “a victory.”

“MORE2 celebrates the opportunity a change of leadership offers the Kansas City, KS community to begin the process of moving forward and establishing a new era of trust between the entire community and law enforcement,” the statement said in part.

Further on in the chief’s announcement Wednesday, Zeigler said police officers in Kansas City, Kansas, “have and will continue to do an amazing job in spite of the difficulties we have faced over the last four and a half years.”

Zeigler continued, “I am leaving the Department at a time when the leadership is strong, the morale is high, and community support and trust is steadfast … Serving as a police officer is one of the noblest callings a person can answer and I encourage our citizens to consider a career in law enforcement with our Department.”

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Kaitlyn Schwers covers breaking news and crime at night for The Kansas City Star. Originally from Willard, Mo., she spent nearly three years reporting in Arkansas and Illinois before returning to Missouri and joining The Star in 2017.
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