A coalition of Kansas City faith organizations is asking for the removal of Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez, calling some of his actions “bad policing” which have misled the public, especially in regards to ongoing revelations involving the 2018 shooting death of teenager John Albers.
Representatives of More2, or More Squared, held a press conference in front of Overland Park City Hall Monday to say that public trust has been broken by the Overland Park Police Department’s statements following the shooting and by the news of a severance payment to Clayton Jenison, the officer who killed John Albers.
In a subsequent report to a state police oversight board, Donchez characterized the officer’s departure as having come under normal circumstances.
“The public trust was broken when John Albers was killed. It ruptured further with the revelation that the public was and still is being misled,” said the Rev. Dr. Bobby Love Sr., co-chair of More2.
The group has written an open letter on its website critical of Donchez’s tenure.
The letter mentions not only the Albers shooting and Jenison’s severance payment but controversy over police treatment of protest marchers last summer and a lawsuit by two female police officers alleging age, gender and racial discrimination in promotions.
“Continuing to employ Chief Donchez despite this alarming pattern will only further erode public trust,” the letter says.
Albers’ shooting at heart of group’s complaint
Albers’ shooting began as a welfare check on the teenager, who had been suffering from depression. He died after Jenison fired into the family minivan Albers was driving as he attempted to back out of the driveway.
Since then, Albers’ parents, Sheila and Steve, have pressed for answers from the police department.
They recently won an open records request on the details of the severance after Donchez and city officials made conflicting statements about Jenison’s departure. The severance agreement said the department agreed to say his departure was under normal circumstances.
“We have to have the truth, and we have to have them do the right thing,” Love said.
Anyone in the city administration who has misled the public should be held to account, he added, though the group did not call for other resignations.
“We stand in solidarity to always stand with those who are doing and calling for the right thing that justice might be done. And that benefits everybody,” Love said.
Sheila Albers said today that the call for Donchez’s resignation may also sharpen the focus of city councilmembers who will be reviewing City Manager Bill Ebel’s job performance.
Ebel played a key role in the severance agreement, and Albers has often been critical of him. His regular performance review was set to happen Monday in executive session.
“For three and a half years, Steve and I have listened to city leadership engage in telling lies or omitting information,” Sheila Albers said Monday.
She went on to say the city mischaracterized her son as speeding toward an officer and that they falsified information about Jenison’s resignation as voluntary and ordinary.
It’s reasonable to ask for Donchez to go because, “that’s where the lies started,” Albers said. “If we can’t trust the chief of police, who can we trust?”
“The true test of leadership is how leaders handle tragedy. Tragedy will happen, but we need to expect city leadership to be honest, accurate and transparent so that we may move forward as a community. Overland Park must do better,” Albers said.
‘I support the police’
There’s also an FBI investigation and another open records lawsuit still pending.
Monday’s event was also attended by one woman carrying a sign that said, “I support the police.”
Mary Brown, an Overland Park resident who is pastor of the Simple Church and chaplain for OPPD, said she has sympathy for officers who much make snap life-or-death decisions.
“I wish the clergy standing behind Sheila would encourage her to forgive and heal,” Brown said.
“Who are we to armchair quarterback what should have been done in that situation?” she said. “I don’t think the officer has to be condemned. It was an unfortunate accident. I realize we will never get John Albers back. I wish it would never have happened. But what do we do from here? We have to forgive.”
Overland Park officials did not immediately respond to the Shawnee Mission Post’s request for comment.