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Originally published February 16, 2012 at 03:10p.m., updated February 16, 2012 at 07:17p.m.

Two Lawrence police officers suspended for role in fixing traffic tickets in exchange for KU basketball tickets

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City leaders have confirmed two Lawrence police officers were suspended following an investigation conducted by the FBI related to traffic tickets being fixed in exchange for Kansas University basketball tickets.

City Manager David Corliss said Thursday afternoon the person whose traffic tickets were fixed is serving time in a federal prison related to the broader KU ticket scandal. A federal judge last year sentenced four former Kansas Athletics Inc. employees — Ben Kirtland, Rodney Jones, Charlette Blubaugh and Kassie Liebsch — and one department consultant, Tom Blubaugh, to federal prison after their guilty pleas in the cash-for-tickets scam from 2005 to 2010 that rocked the university and cost it more than $2 million in football and basketball tickets.

Corliss said in the recent case that Police Chief Tarik Khatib received an anonymous tip in May 2011 about the possible ticket-fixing. It was referred to federal authorities for an investigation. Corliss said the investigators did not believe any criminal charges would be forthcoming.

City officials did not release the names of the two suspended police officers, saying it was a personnel matter.

City officials said the city’s personnel review process is ongoing because the actions of dismissing speeding tickets in exchange for the KU basketball tickets violated the city’s gratuity policy.

“The Lawrence Police Department has the confidence of myself and the Lawrence City Commission,” Corliss said. “This is a serious matter with serious consequences. That is why I referred it to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. ... The police chief is taking the necessary personnel actions, which are serious.”

City officials confirmed the ticket-fixing matter after the Journal-World on Thursday told Corliss it had information the FBI had conducted an investigation regarding KU tickets being given to police officers in exchange for dismissing city tickets.

Thursday’s statement by the city left several questions unanswered.

Both Khatib and Corliss confirmed that “several” members of the Lawrence Police Department were involved in the dismissal of tickets, although they contend one individual orchestrated the matter. Neither Khatib nor Corliss would comment on how many department members were involved with dismissing tickets.

The city also did not provide details about the number of tickets dismissed or the time period over which the dismissals occurred. City officials said they were uncertain of how long the ticket-fixing activity occurred, but said they had evidence it took place over several years.

“It’s my job to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” Khatib said. “It’s my job to reinforce to employees that this is not an acceptable behavior.”

Mayor Aron Cromwell said one of the suspended individuals orchestrated the dismissal of the tickets, while the other is an individual who had knowledge of the activity and did not step forward. Cromwell said he expects the officer who was leading the activity will be removed from the city’s police force.

“I think that would be a likely scenario,” Cromwell said. “The actual decision is up to the police chief, but I don’t foresee any other potential outcome for the one officer.”

Khatib and Corliss declined to comment on any specific personnel actions that may come from the case. Corliss also declined to say whether the two individuals have been suspended without pay, although he did say the status of their suspensions had changed as the city’s investigation progressed.

Previous occurrences

Khatib acknowledged that he believed there had been allegations of “similar activity” involving police department personnel made prior to the May 2011 anonymous tip. Khatib — who was not chief at the time — said his understanding is those allegations were examined but there was never enough evidence to take more formal action. Khatib succeeded longtime Police Chief Ron Olin, who retired from the city in September 2010 to become director of security and internal controls for Kansas Athletics Inc., also after the KU ticket scandal came to light. Olin left his position with KU last July, saying he had worked himself out of a job and that his services to KU would likely be offered in the future as a consultant. Olin did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.

“It’s unfortunate that this issue has been resurrected,” KU Associate Athletic Director Jim Marchiony said referring to Thursday’s news from City Hall. “But we certainly didn’t know anything about it. We’ve moved on.”

Cromwell said he was disappointed that traffic tickets apparently were being fixed by police department employees for a number of years. But he said he was pleased with how Khatib ­— who took over as police chief in February 2011 — responded to the anonymous complaint.

“I’m very confident that Chief Khatib will identify where the weaknesses are that have been illuminated by this event,” Cromwell said. “He will make sure that officers know if they see anything going on, whether it is a police officer, a civilian or their close friend, they have to report it.”

Reputation damage

Corliss said he believed the events would require the police department to at least partially rebuild its reputation with the community.

“I think there will be some momentary damage to the department, but the continuing strength of the department and the excellent work provided by the members of the department is appreciated by this community and will continue to be appreciated by the community,” Corliss said. “This community has faith in its police department and should have faith in its police department.”

Khatib said Thursday that he did not believe an independent citizens review board would be helpful or instructive in a situation like this investigation.

“This worked. The information came in anonymously. It was jumped on vigorously, and people are going to be held accountable,” Khatib said.

Laura Routh, a Lawrence resident who has urged for more independent oversight of the police department, said she appreciated a statement that Khatib was intent to make sure it didn’t happen again.

“But to say that what has occurred is merely a personnel matter, involving only unacceptable behavior, is a bit soft, I think. Let’s call it what it is. It’s graft. It’s corruption,” Routh said. “And, in my opinion, it validates and rightfully reinvigorates the many questions that have been raised in the past about the transparency of, and accountability within, the Lawrence Police Department.”

Khatib said internal affairs investigators, city management and himself were specifically trained to deal with these types of investigations.

“We have the time, training and the expertise to conduct investigations, to get to the bottom and to get the answers for these types of things,” he said.

But Routh said she believed the community trust in the department “will be further eroded by this unfortunate revelation.”

“I really feel bad for Chief Khatib. He’s inherited quite a legacy, and as a leader he’s got some difficult work to do,” Routh said. “I hope that the city will take this opportunity to engage the citizenry in a broader discussion of police priorities and performance. To improve the community perception of and trust in the police department, we need some form of independent police oversight.”

Comments

5 years, 9 months ago

Wish this story would end..it's like my ex-wife's cooking. Always coming back.

MOHawk1 5 years, 9 months ago

And by the lawrence PD...you mean every PD in the entire country!

jaybate 5 years, 9 months ago

Examples with evidence?

Or smear-opping the police?

MOHawk1 5 years, 9 months ago

Do your own research guy....there are plenty of examples out there for you to find.

jaybate 5 years, 9 months ago

First, I don't do research for free. Do your own flipping research for free.

Second, the burden of proof is on those that make the allegations.

Third, speculation is one thing. Accusations are another. The alias appeared to make a bold allegation, not a speculation. Conditioning a statement with "if" is not the same as declaring something speculation. Its a a conditioned, logical assertion that requires evidence to be something other than a conditional allegation that smears without evidence. Allegations require evidence, or they are smear tactics and nothing more.

Fourth, I'm for fair public discourse, where speculation is labeled as such, and where allegations are backed with evidence.

jaybate 5 years, 9 months ago

Fifth, I am against smear tactics that appear increasingly widely practiced on the internet, and are reputedly taught to certain persons in the military, intelligence, police, paramilitary groups, political consultants, corporate intelligence. and so on. Regardless of whether one thinks it wise to train these professionals in this sort of activity, what appears to be happening is that the manuals and/or techniques are getting disseminated on the internet to untrained professionals, who appear to be trying them out. Also, some trained professionals may be moving on from their jobs that gave them the training, and some of those maybe using these techniques on the internet either for hire, or out of frustrations with their lots in life.

Sixth, before the internet, the mainstream media could and did manufacture public opinion to great extent through closely held control of news, advertising, and content dissemination. The rise of the internet has greatly eroded the traditional ability of mainstream media to manufacture public opinion. But this does not mean main stream media is not trying hard to learn the means of manufacturing public opinion in the internet age. They are working furiously to try to learn how and in time they will. The US military is reputedly massively subsidizing the development of the necessary techniques, by setting up companies and regiments that do nothing but monitor, lurk in, and actively try to shape opinion on the net, as part of their full spectrum warfare doctrine. Smear tactics are one category of tactics that can be particularly effective in getting control of either single sites, or grouped sites in the age of interactive media. Reputedly, you target certain aliases, smear them, then load up serial aliases commenting in other directions and, voila, you get a managed change in discourse. Its fascinating as a game, but it could be extremely harmful to free public discourse. Citizens ought to become sensitized to smear tactics as a rising technique for shaping interactive social media. They are easily recognized, when you know what you are looking for, and when recognized, lose most of their effectiveness at reshaping public discourse. And again, because these techniques are being subsidized and widely studied and worked on, there is more and more information about how to do it available virtually. There used to be hackers that got their jollies by tampering with computers and networks. Now I suspect there are the same kinds of anti-social types tampering with public discourse. Its not the end of western civilization, or anything, but it has a lot of potential for mischief, hurt, and perhaps occasionally serious misconduct.

jaybate 5 years, 9 months ago

Seventh, some police, and some citizens, have a history of law breaking and so we have no reason to suspect that some citizens, or some police, have stopped. But not all of them do. I met one cop, who I believe was clean, honorable and honest. It appeared to substantially hamper his advancement, as such values sometimes do in many professions in our world, but he existed, or appeared as such to me. So, right there, I doubt the alias allegation that all LPD would be suspended, if investigated. It seemed a blatant smear to me.

Eighth, don't tread on me.

jaybate 5 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Ben Simonett 5 years, 9 months ago

Man Jaybate, as conspiratorial/anti-establishment as some of your posts seem your the last person i would suspect to step in in defense of law enforecement.

There may not be specific examples in this case, but historically almost every form of law enforcement throughout history has had some level of corruption.

John Boyle 5 years, 9 months ago

"historically almost every form of law enforcement throughout history has had some level of corruption." And you have pooped your pants at some point in history. Neither of these statements are worth stating so quit yapping to hear your head rattle. By and large we have more honest police officers than corrupt ones.

Ben Simonett 5 years, 9 months ago

I share your belief that we have more honest police officers than corrupt ones. But i have never come across any institution of authority throughout history that has been 100%, absolutely, uncorruptable.

This story just shows the Lawrence PD is no different than any other police force.....ever.

I have full faith that proper action will be taken and that this behavior is not a common occurrence amongst the rest of the officers.

jaybate 5 years, 9 months ago

I'm establishment to the bone.

I just want everyone included in the establishment.

Don't believe in conspiracies.

Conspiracies are real. Most are legal. Some illegal. I'm against the illegal ones and prefer transparency, but legal conspiracies are SOP in most committee activities you can mention.

Not all police are bad.

Not all citizens are bad.

Most of both are probably good.

The bad ones need to take their punishments and get better.

ghigh1962 5 years, 9 months ago

I agree that the City of Lawrence PD is very scanulous and has been for many years!

5 years, 9 months ago

"Bake 'em away, toys."

  • Clancy Wiggum

Jackster 5 years, 9 months ago

Why didn't they release the officers names? If it was the average Joe or a KU athlete, the names sure would be released. Throw the book at 'em!

sevenyearhawk 5 years, 9 months ago

A THOUSAND times this ...

serve & protect my ass!

sevenyearhawk 5 years, 9 months ago

A THOUSAND times this ...

serve & protect my ass!

sevenyearhawk 5 years, 9 months ago

A THOUSAND times this ...

serve & protect my ass!

Mike Kendall 5 years, 9 months ago

Wow! At what price would you want to secure some KU basketball tickets? Kind of unbelievable!

Ben Kane 5 years, 9 months ago

can't wait for this to be picked up nationally which will happen about 2 seconds from now.

notigers4me 5 years, 9 months ago

This all seems like a cover up to me. It's time that full disclosure is made.

Bangkok_Jayhawk 5 years, 9 months ago

The corruption here runs deep... Better get Jack Bauer if we want to get to the bottom of this.

EverRisingHawk 5 years, 9 months ago

Jack Bauer would turn the other cheek for a pair of KU tickets, though. The man's not a god.

Bangkok_Jayhawk 5 years, 9 months ago

I don't know EverRisingHawk... 8 Seasons and they guy was never corrupted. That being said he never was presented with an opportunity for KU tickets.

EverRisingHawk 5 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, even the noblest have their price... his just might be courtside KU seats followed by a couple Free State drafts and a cuban cigar from Self's humidor. Da#n, I just had a daytime fantasy only to wake up and realize I'm still at work.

Jeremy Bolinger 5 years, 9 months ago

They better have been prime seats if it's worth throwing your reputation and career away (sarcasm).

Brak 5 years, 9 months ago

I bet Gary Pinkel wishes Methzou football tickets were worth more so he could have swept that little DUI under the rug, ain't that right tigger boy.

AcesWild 5 years, 9 months ago

what was pinkel punchmeant thats right they had to find a judge to say bad boy tv. radio that he did nothing wrong, ask jack harry kevin k 810 radio they have acouple beer every night. that was there defense of pinkel .jack harry was given sport awart . he how that boob is still on channel41 he no nothing .and the guy on 810 train eye lasier surery most not of work. i feel sorry that kc. cant but someone on that no the sport they talk about

EverRisingHawk 5 years, 9 months ago

This thing runs far and deep. It's got to lead all the way to the top, because the convoluted, overblown explanation is always more feasible than the boring observations - two cops using their scant authority to cop free KU tickets. We need a Dark Knight - someone the city can afford to hate, someone who isn't afraid to fight for the truth. L-town deserves a silent guardian, a watchful protector...... who won't grant faves for KU tix.

ahpersecoachingexperience 5 years, 9 months ago

I'll do it! Just shine the ahperse signal in the dark sky whenever you need my help

Ron Prichard 5 years, 9 months ago

I shudder to think what the apherse signal would be.

Geekinout 5 years, 9 months ago

Probably in the shape form of a stick with two circular ball objects on each side.. .only kidding.

AcesWild 5 years, 9 months ago

maybe we we need federal invas cation of how many tickets haye been wrote in manhatton to people wildcat sport , or mu trust this pinkel was smash. how about big 12 office for fixing basketball games that federal case

Don Everett 5 years, 9 months ago

They are public employees and are paid from our tax dollars. This is NOT a private matter. Their names should be published.

ahpersecoachingexperience 5 years, 9 months ago

So Charlotte shows a little sum-thm-sum-thm and it doesn't get her out of the ticket so she offers up some seats instead.

(yeah, good luck trying to sleep tonight with that image in your head)

gardenjay 5 years, 9 months ago

Talk about dedicated fans! I cannot imagine how stoked these public servants are about KU Basketball - see, there is a good way to look at things.

5 years, 9 months ago

The worst part is that this is just dumb. Throwing away your career for free tickets.. I wonder if these guys have families depending on them?

In Miami, I had the chance to work w/local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and I know the high quality people who do serve and protect.

Then you get these guys and they just reinforce the bad reputation that many believe is indicative of all law enforcement.

deepind 5 years, 9 months ago

Am I the only one that finds the usage of the term "gratuity" in this context disturbing? The cops freaking took a BRIBE!! Are you kidding me? Personnel matter? Dismiss the dirty ones and clean up the PD. If a cop is willing to trade traffic tickets for game tickets, what else will they be willing to do for the right price?

Joseph Kuebel 5 years, 9 months ago

Now we understand how America works!! Congrats, but sorry it took so long for you to realize it. If you have the power to pay off enforcers you secure your status of power... Much like how several political roles have appointees who ensure they keep their job.

Joseph Kuebel 5 years, 9 months ago

Now we understand how America works!! Congrats, but sorry it took so long for you to realize it. If you have the power to pay off enforcers you secure your status of power... Much like how several political roles have appointees who ensure they keep their job.

Geekinout 5 years, 9 months ago

I hate cops!!! Bunch of dirty crooks lowest of the low on power trips to fuel their egos... They're a big reason to what's wrong with our society!

Jeremy Bolinger 5 years, 9 months ago

I hope this ruins their career's. Everyone involved with this needs to suffer the consequences. Fire them, press charges to the max, and set an example that this crap wont be tolerated. Not only is embarrassing to KU, the State of Kansas, and all police departments in the country, but its just plain dumb. Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!

Micky Baker 5 years, 9 months ago

4 of them are already in prison, and their names are in the above article.

John Boyle 5 years, 9 months ago

Really. They're what's wrong with our society?? Cops getting basketball tickets to get out of a traffic ticket is way down on the list of things wrong with our society! WAY DOWN!

What they did was wrong but good gravy don't you think you may have gone a little overboard on your detestation.

Geekinout 5 years, 9 months ago

Sadly yes, they're nothing more than glorified boy scout tax collectors. They're suppose to be representing and upholding the laws of the land and when they are as corrupt to take bribes such as this it's a big problem. Breaking simple rules and codes means they are capable of much worse..

5 years, 9 months ago

I agree...I bet they were shaking down the people in both the North and South Tower before letting them out.

scholz 5 years, 9 months ago

If we weren't sooo damn good. We wouldnt have this problem, lol. I watch other Big 12 games on tv and there stadiums are NEVER full.

AaronLudy 5 years, 9 months ago

correction....the stadiums are full once a year....whe KU plays there lol

Steve Brown 5 years, 9 months ago

a few police, preists, boy scout leaders but not all of them cross the lines. don't judge the whole by the actions of a few.

One of hottest fads in today's MBA programs is a class on corporate culture, ethics, morals and behavior. We all need a reminder where the lines are from time to time.

there is a wide spectrum of grey between Bernie Madoff and Mother Teresa or Ghandi.

Benjamin Piehler 5 years, 9 months ago

All I know is this is nothin' compared to what the cops were up to during my Chicago days...

Maracas 5 years, 9 months ago

Cops in Lawrence don't take bribes; they take gratuities. An employee stealing money, then, isn't embezzling; he's taking a gratuity. A clown knocking over a liquor store isn't robbing the joint; he's taking a gratuity. A guy selling drugs isn't really "selling" drugs; he's merely offering them for a gratuity.

The city of Lawrence has a lot of nerve; and the police department has a set of brass ones for playing us all as stupid by passing off officers taking bribes as merely accepting "gratuities". Yeah, we all have a lot of confidence in the PD when this kind of thing comes from the top.

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