Sexual assault scandal triggers calls for review by US Police Department

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It’s a scandal that has shocked many beyond the Kansas City borders, where a senior white police officer allegedly waged a reign of terror in which he brutally abused and sexually assaulted vulnerable black women.

A frightening series of allegations against former Kansas City, Kansas Police Department detective Roger Golubski has lifted the lid on a plan in which he allegedly protected local drug dealers in the Midwestern city, who then allowed him to rape women forced to work as prostitutes.

Golubski, 69, spent 35 years in the police department and worked as a detective in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods. The federal government charged Golubski in September with six counts of sexual assault and in November charged him and three other men with conspiring to keep young women in involuntary sexual servitude, according to US Justice Department press releases.

Golubski, who faces life in prison if convicted, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Roger Golubski. Photography: AP

The details that have emerged about the allegations against Golubski are shocking.

In 2017, Lamonte McIntyre, a black man arrested at age 17, was cleared and released from prison after serving 23 years for a double homicide he did not commit. McIntyre and his mother filed a lawsuit in 2018 against Wyandotte County alleging that Golubski framed him because his mother rejected sexual advances and that the county was responsible for him.

The lawsuit included the initials of 73 women Golubski allegedly victimized, according to the Washington Post. Earlier this year, the county agreed to pay McIntyre and her mother $12.5m (£10m) as part of a settlement.

Ophelia Williams, a 60-year-old black woman, claims Golubski raped her in 1999. She was living in Kansas City, Kansas with her four children when police arrested her 14-year-old twin boys for a double homicide. After more officers exited her home, Golubski stayed inside her with Williams and complimented her legs, she said.

A few days later Golubski returned. Williams figured it was to talk about his kids’ cases, so she let him in. As he spoke, he put his hand on her leg and she slapped it. Then he raped her.

He came back days later and raped her again.

After the first incident, Williams told him he was going to call the police.

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“He said, ‘I’m the police,’ and if I said anything about it, he was going to kill me, shoot me, or have someone else do it, where it would take a long time to find me,” Williams said.

Therefore, he did not report the crime.

Golubski’s attorney, Christopher Joseph, said his client denied the allegations and described the allegations as unsubstantiated.

But there are divisions about how best to deal with its impact and aftermath. The director of an organization that helps people who have been wrongly convicted and a Kansas district attorney agree to investigate the treasure trove of cases, but the two lawyers disagree on the best way to get justice on behalf of the alleged victims.

Mark Dupree, district attorney for Wyandotte County, which includes Kansas City, will spearhead a $1.7m (£1.4m) plan to look into 150 of Golubski’s cases. He said a new mayor and police chief, who assisted federal authorities in a criminal investigation into Golubski and supported local review, should be given the opportunity to “prove himself or prove himself wrong.”

Meanwhile, the Midwest Innocence Project is looking into the cases of 40 inmates in Wyandotte County, many of whom are linked to Golubski, according to the group’s executive director, Tricia Rojo Bushnell.

He said the way to hold Golubski and the police department accountable is for the Justice Department to conduct an independent review.

If not, local black residents who claim Golubski pillaged them may conclude that the local government and criminal justice system has failed them again.

“We need to demand and demand accountability and a systematic review of all the problems that have been going on in Wyandotte County and make sure that the system is changed to prevent it — and actually, I would say, prevent it from continuing,” said Rojo Bushnell, whose The organization has already agreed to represent four convicted individuals in Wyandotte County whose cases involve official misconduct, he said.

The misconduct goes beyond Golubski, who was a captain, Rojo Bushnell said. He points to the fact that former police chief Terry Zeigler was Golubski’s partner for several years and, according to McIntyre’s lawsuit, knew of his actions. Zeigler withdrew in 2019 after the Kansas Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into whether the boss “double dipped” when he took paid time off while also blaming the county government for work he did on a home on the county-owned lake, the Associated Press reported.

A retired Kansas City homicide detective also said in a 2015 deposition that Golubski was known throughout the department for “having sex with black prostitutes and drug addicts,” according to USA Today.

“Even if someone wants to discuss it is right [Golubski]there’s a whole system that has not only allowed him to do it, but has supported and promoted it,” Rojo Bushnell said.

To best address alleged corruption, Rojo Bushnell said, the federal government should conduct a model or practical investigation, which examines whether there has been systemic misconduct rather than an isolated wrongdoing.

While running for mayor in 2021, Tyrone Garner told the Kansas City Star he would urge the federal government to investigate the police department.

But a year later, once elected, Garner said of a federal investigation: “After talking and consulting with the law enforcement community here, if that’s something I have to stay with them about it. I will follow their lead because they are the law enforcement professionals, not me,” the Star reported.

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When the Guardian asked Dupree, the district attorney, whether there should be a federal investigation, he said he “would leave it up to the mayor and the police chief. My only goal is to make sure “new police chief Karl Oakman, who takes office in 2021, has the support to ‘review the same house as him, frankly, while I’m reviewing criminal convictions here’ in the DA’s office .

The investigation involves digitally scanning about 4,000 boxes, each containing about 20 files, which could take 18 months, Dupree said. His office will review cases throughout the trial, he said.

“We can’t say Chief Oakman’s administration has had three decades to clean up their house,” as the police department’s Innocence Project said. “They’ve had a year and a half, and I think that doesn’t give him a fair shake and an opportunity to clean up what he finds there,” Dupree said.

Nikki Richardson, the founder of an advocacy group called Justice for Wyandotte, said she thinks Dupree has “done everything he can to run his office as ethically as possible” and could do a very thorough investigation. But she thinks county officials are “too close to the problem” and, as such, she would be more comfortable with a federal investigation.

Meanwhile, Williams said she believes her children, who remain incarcerated, will be released from prison for a crime she said they did not commit.

Rojo Bushnell said he could not provide information on whether the Innocence Project was looking into the sons’ cases.

Five years ago, Williams suffered a massive heart attack, making it difficult for her to speak and breathe.

He hopes investigators find out that “in all those cases, Golubski put stuff on people. A lot of people didn’t do anything about it, but he said yes,” Williams said.

Asked if she thinks the investigation will help her get justice, Williams said: “I feel good. I think something is about to happen. I don’t know when, but it is.

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