OVERLAND PARK, KS — On Thursday, the City of Overland Park released to the public the long-awaited Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team report on the 2018 killing of 17-year-old John Albers. After reviewing the contents of the report and speaking with the Albers family, attorney and Overland Park mayoral candidate Clay Norkey released the following statement:
This is what needed to be done — three years ago.
I am glad to see that Overland Park officials have finally released the report on the officer-involved shooting death of John Albers. But it should not have taken three years, three lawsuits, an ongoing Department of Justice investigation, and tireless calls for truth and transparency from the community for the city to reach this decision.
I have been following this case more closely than most over the last three years because of my personal friendship with the Albers and because I was John’s brother’s baseball coach. The way the city has handled the aftermath of this incident has been troubling, and I have consistently supported the family’s calls for transparency in this case. John’s death was not only a heartbreaking tragedy for his family, but also a tragedy for our community as a whole. And the city’s approach of secrecy and delays only made it worse.
It is essential for our city leaders to understand how important transparency and honesty are in maintaining the people's trust in public officials and law enforcement, especially in a case where a young resident is killed by a police officer. And when things go wrong, our leaders must quickly recognize and acknowledge mistakes so they can do the work necessary to rebuild public trust. That did not happen here.
The slow drip of information to the public in the years following John’s death has exacerbated the community’s pain, and the details that have come to light have highlighted serious flaws in the city’s actions. The officer who killed John should not have been paid a secretive, taxpayer-funded $70,000 payout, and no arrangement should have been made to mischaracterize the circumstances of his departure.
The report released Thursday is concerning in many ways. Providing the public with this information so that the people can evaluate their local government’s decisions is a step in the right direction, but this situation has made it clear that serious changes are needed. We must reevaluate our response to welfare and mental-health checks — a teenager in crisis should never be approached with a gun drawn, and armed officers are not the best way to respond in such situations. We must assess the processes that are supposed to hold police officers accountable to ensure that we are judging incidents fairly and without bias. We must treat victims and their families with compassion and honesty. And we must fully commit to transparency and openness so that we can better respond to crises when they arise and restore the people’s trust in their local government.