The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas requested Thursday that the state attorney general investigate Tonganoxie Police Department for alleged racial bias stemming from an incident in which a black man was held at gunpoint and handcuffed while moving into a home he purchase a month earlier.
The ACLU of Kansas' proposal to Attorney General Derek Schmidt contended the incident in August 2018 involving Karle Robinson, 61, led to police harassment and surveillance against him. The organization claimed police chief Greg Lawson blocked Robinson from filing a formal complaint against the department.
"Mr. Robinson believes his detention was motivated by his race rather than a reasonable suspicion that he was committing a burglary," said Lauren Bonds, interim executive director of ACLU of Kansas.
“It also appears that the chief of police prevented Mr. Robinson from filing a credible, legitimate complaint and that is not in compliance with reporting and intake standards. He must not interfere with citizens registering complaints," Bonds said.
ACLU of Kansas recommended the office of the attorney general explore actions of the police department or refer the complaint to the Kansas Commission on Officers Standards and Training.
Lawson, chief of the Tonganoxie Police Department, said the agency placed the highest importance on safety of residents and visitors to Tonganoxie.
"We have fully cooperated with Mr. Robinson and the ACLU regarding inquiries into this matter," the chief said. "We believe that the ACLU’s correspondence to the attorney general’s office contains multiple accusations that are inaccurate."
He said the police department would cooperate with the attorney general's office or the state police commission.
Robinson, who moved to Tonganoxie from Merriam, asserted in the letter to the attorney general a Tonganoxie police officer pointed a firearm at him and then handcuffed him Aug. 19, 2018, while he moved belongings into the home he purchased on July 13, 2018.
The officer said in a police report that he suspected Robinson of committing a burglary, the letter said.
Robinson also said the Tonganoxie police chief obstructed him filing a complaint Oct. 3, 2018, against the department for alleged bias. The police chief said the officer's actions were appropriate because the officer "feared for his life," the letter said.