KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nearly two years since her son’s death, the mom of a teenager killed by Overland Park police is pushing for change through new policy.
Transparency, fairness and justice. They’re all key values Sheila Albers said are in the bill she’s supporting in the Kansas Legislature.
Albers felt an overwhelming sense of transparency was lacking after an Overland Park police officer shot and killed her son John Albers, who was in distress, on Jan. 20, 2018.
“What can we do to potentially make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Albers asked.
It’s a question the metro mom has constantly been asking herself since an officer shot at her 17-year-old son 13 times, killing John as he backed the family van out of their garage.
John was home alone, threatening to hurt himself that day. His friends called 911 to get help. But when police arrived, it turned deadly.
“There have been really dark days where I have felt John’s absence like a black hole,” Albers said.
With this new bill comes hope.
Kansas State Rep. David Benson is working with Albers to propose a new law. It would require every agency to have a written policy on how to handle an officer-involved shooting that results in death. It would also require an outside agency to conduct the investigation.
“I think this bill will create public awareness, public knowledge,” Benson said, “and therefore accountability around police involved shootings.”
One month after John’s death, the Johnson County district attorney released two of the four police dash camera videos when he cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. But a lot of other information on the case has never been released.
Benson’s bill would change that, too.
“There’s just a whole lot of information available now that was never available before that we would like to see, I would like to see, ultimately be made public,” Benson said.
If the district attorney decides not to prosecute, like in John’s case, a redacted version of the investigative report would be made public.
Nearly two years later, Albers said she’s still in the dark about John’s death.
“We still don’t have any police reports, witness statements, reconstruction. That has never been provided,” Albers said, “and I think transparency builds trust.”
With good policy comes better training, which Albers believes, in her heart, would have saved her son’s life.
“I can’t bring John back, but I could potentially save other lives and create a safer city for everyone,” she said.
It could take several years for this bill to become law. Benson has pre-filed the bill. Kansas Lawmakers go back to work Monday, and he hopes the bill gets a committee hearing.