Editorials

As embattled police chief retires, KCK must look outside department for a new leader

KCK police chief lease on county-owned house raises questions

Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Terry Zeigler has arranged to live for two years in a county-owned house in Wyandotte County Lake Park. But officials did not put the lease in writing until after a taxpayer asked questions.
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Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Terry Zeigler has arranged to live for two years in a county-owned house in Wyandotte County Lake Park. But officials did not put the lease in writing until after a taxpayer asked questions.

Embattled Kansas City, Kansas Police Chief Terry Zeigler is retiring under a cloud of unanswered questions and unresolved controversies.

Poor judgment and allegations of wrongdoing have dogged the 29-year police veteran in recent years. And while Zeigler contends that he has done nothing wrong, he remains under investigation for alleged double dipping and is a defendant in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the Unified Government and a police academy supervisor.

Zeigler’s retirement in September provides the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department with an important opportunity to make a new start.

Identifying and interviewing strong candidates from outside the department must be a priority. Both a change in leadership and culture are needed at this moment to ensure that Zeigler’s missteps are not repeated in the future.

The outgoing chief’s five-year tenure has been marred by questionable decisions that still must be probed further.

Last year, The Star reported that Zeigler had a handshake deal to live in a Unified Government-owned lake house, paying little rent in exchange for making improvements to the house. The controversial arrangement only became public after a citizen inquired about it.

The Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office continues to investigate whether Zeigler double dipped when he took time off to work on the property. In May, the case was referred to the district attorney by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Last month, a local social justice advocacy group led a march to police headquarters to demand that the mayor fire Zeigler. The protest came weeks after a former police cadet filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was fired after reporting she was sexually assaulted by a supervising officer, who eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor sex offense.

Zeigler’s tin-eared response to a separate federal lawsuit alleging that the chief’s former partner, Detective Roger Golubski, took advantage of women to make arrests raised additional questions about the chief’s judgment and culpability.

The suit was brought by Lamonte McIntyre, a Kansas City, Kansas, man who spent more than two decades behind bars for a double murder he did not commit, and his mother, Rosie. The suit alleges that Golubski extorted sexual favors from poor black women, including Rosie McIntyre, and also coerced false statements to close cases.

“These allegations are 24 years old, and I don’t want them to detract from great work our officers are doing in the community,” Zeigler said. The chief declined to discuss the serious and disturbing allegations against Golubski and did not address the lawsuit’s claim that he knew about the misconduct.

Zeigler also was on the wrong side of the debate over creating a much-needed conviction integrity unit in Wyandotte County. And the police department’s ongoing feud with Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree has been a counterproductive distraction.

The next police chief will face steep challenges in rebuilding relationships and cleaning up some of the messes that Zeigler is leaving behind. Bolstering public trust in the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department is essential, and the community should have input in this selection process.

The Unified Government must get this hire right. And bringing in fresh eyes from outside the department may provide the best chance for success.

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