Jay-Z's Team Roc files lawsuit against Kansas City police department for allegedly covering up misconduct

Team Roc claims certain records expose complaints filed against KCKPD members.

September 20, 2021, 8:55 PM

In its latest push for police reform, Jay-Z's Team Roc filed a lawsuit in the district court of Wyandotte County, Kansas, on Monday against the Kansas City Police Department, accusing KCKPD of covering up alleged police misconduct.

Team Roc, the philanthropic arm of the hip-hop mogul's record label, Roc Nation, is suing for access to records that, according to the lawsuit, would shed light on complaints filed against members of KCKPD's investigative division, including documents related to the training and supervision of KCKPD officers.

Attorney Alex Spiro, who represents Team Roc in the suit, told ABC News that while the KCKPD provided some information requested through the Kansas Open Records Act, the documents the department provided were "not sufficient."

"Because of the [Kansas] Public Records Act that allows interested parties to look at various states and government documents, we're allowed to see certain files and how the government handled certain issues," Spiro said. "The government has attempted to block our access to those files, and so we're suing to see what they don't want us to see."

"The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS has received notice that Roc Nation has filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Wyandotte County District Court today regarding an earlier open records request. The Unified Government has previously produced hundreds of the requested records per the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) with some exceptions," Nancy Chartrand, public information officer of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, told ABC News in a statement.

"KORA does not require the disclosure of personnel records and criminal investigation records, for example, without specific circumstances. In response, Roc Nation has filed a 28-page petition stating there is a special interest in disclosing all records so the public can seek justice," Chartrand added. "Once the petition has been thoroughly reviewed, the Unified Government will follow-up by filing a response."

Jay Z attends an event on Aug. 28, 2021, in New York City.
Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images, FILE

The lawsuit alleges that KCKPD has agreed to provide documents "pertaining to the complaints made against members of the Investigative Division," but has "refused to produce documents pertaining to any steps that the City has taken in response to those Complaints, including any investigations or disciplinary proceedings initiated as a result of the complaints."

This lawsuit comes amid calls from local activists for the U.S Department of Justice to investigate KCKPD due to a string of recent incidents in which police officers in Kansas City, Kansas, were accused of alleged misconduct and discrimination.

"The Kansas City, Kansas Police Department continues to be willing, and available, to assist any agency working any investigation involving our department," a spokesman for the Kansas City, Kansas, police department told The Wyandotte Daily in a statement in July. "Our relationship with the community is of utmost importance, which is why we are focused on strengthening current relationships and restoring those that have been broken."

The suit filed on Monday references several of those reported incidents, including an officer who is charged with committing sex crimes involving a minor, two officers charged with a felony and misdemeanor assault over the mistreatment of an inmate, officers indicted on charges of stealing from homes where they were serving search warrants as well as a federal lawsuit in which a Black female KCKPD officer sued the department for alleged race and gender discrimination.

"These documents will help identify the scope of the problem, any potential evidence of a cover-up, and also the potential causes," the lawsuit states.

According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, some exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act include criminal investigation records, criminal intelligence information and "most personnel records."

The lawsuit states that Team Roc is "seeking documents outside of the scope of personnel records to determine if "complaints are being seriously addressed and whether there is sufficient oversight and supervision over the KCKPD."

Team Roc has been pushing for criminal justice and police reform through various initiatives.

Jay-Z and Meek Mill attend an event on Jan. 23, 2019, in New York.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images, FILE

Last year, Jay-Z, Team Roc and hip-hop artist Yo Gotti financially backed a federal lawsuit against the Mississippi prison system on behalf of 152 inmates, accusing Parchman prison of subjecting inmates to alleged "barbaric" conditions. According to a Team Roc spokesman, litigation in this case is ongoing.

Jay-Z has also been outspoken on prison reform, joining forces with fellow hip-hop artist Meek Mill in founding REFORM Alliance, a criminal justice reform organization.

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