TOPEKA, Kan. -- The mother of a metro teen killed by Overland Park police in 2018 wants more transparency and changes in the way officer-involved death investigations are handled.
Sheila Albers testified on behalf of Kansas House Bill 2424 on Tuesday. It would create policy changes, require independent investigation and make those investigations public with redactions if no criminal charges are filed.
Albers has watched some of the video of the night her 17-year-old son was shot and killed by an Overland Park officer who said he feared for his safety as John Albers backed out of the driveway.
“What we do not have is facts and evidence to back up assertions," Albers said. "The people of Kansas deserve that transparency, and in no other profession can people make those assertions and not back up it with facts."
But the bill to require certain aspects of officer-involved shooting investigations to be made public faced stiff opposition from a host of law enforcement groups Tuesday.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Kansas Sheriffs’ Association, Kansas State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Peace Officers’ Association and Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police all testified against the bill.
“Witnesses are much less likely to provide true and accurate statements when they believe they will be publicly identified or identified unnecessarily,” KBI Director Kirk Thompson said.
Albers said the bill was drafted in such a way that the roughly 20 officer-involved shooting investigations in Kansas each year wouldn't be jeopardized.
“We don't need names or phone numbers or addresses," she said. "We just need supporting evidence."
Law enforcement also worried about delays in collecting evidence waiting for outside investigators
“I think law enforcement has deep roots in what they do and how they do it, and we are asking them to challenge their thinking about how to move forward in a changing dynamic society,” Rep. David Benson of Overland Park said.
A second similar bill was also proposed that calls for investigative summaries to be released instead of entire redacted reports.
But Albers said that would never do enough to give grieving families the answers they need.