A federal judge ordered three KCK police officers to turn in their guns and stay away from their fellow officers after indictments against them were unsealed Monday morning.
Jeffrey M. Bell, Darryl M. Forrest and Dustin Sillings were indicted in relation to a July 7, 2010, raid, according to court documents. The home raided was on Haskell Avenue.
A complaint from the Haskell homeowner set in motion events that led to a FBI sting operation designed to catch unscrupulous officers, authorities said. Property was stolen from homes during the execution of search warrants from January 2010 through January 2011, according to court documents.
The three men entered not guilty pleas Monday.
The officers, who are members of the KCK SWAT Team, are alleged to have stolen property during several search warrants at residences located in Wyandotte County, according to court documents. As many as five raids may have been involved, according to court documents.
Electronics and cash were stolen, according to court documents.
The officers were caught after complaints were made and the FBI set up the sting, according to authorities.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said the allegations once they reached KCK brass weren't "swept under the rug." He said Police Chief Rick Armstrong got the FBI involved who then set in place a sting inside a vacant home. Furniture was brought in, electronics and cash planted and surveillance cameras were installed.
"Unfortunately, their fears were confirmed," Grissom said.
In a statement, KCK Mayor Joe Reardon thanked Grissom and the FBI for their assistance. Reardon reiterated his support of Armstrong and said he expects KCK officers to have the "utmost integrity."
"This incident is disappointing, but I have the highest confidence in Police Chief Rick Armstrong and his leadership of the KCK Police Department," Reardon said. "I applaud his decision to launch the internal investigation, which led to these indictments."
Reardon declined requests to answer questions publicly. The municipal government and police department did not respond to requests to provide information about the three officers' work history.
All three police officers are charged with one count of conspiracy in relation to the July 2010 raid.
Bell and Forrest were charged in connection with the theft of property and depriving property in relation to the July raid.
Forrest is charged with stealing property in January 2011 as part of the sting operation set up by the FBI.
Bell is alleged to have taken at least three PlayStation PS3s during execution of three separate search warrants from January 2010 through January 2011, according to court documents. During the sting raid, Bell allegedly stole a Nintendo game player, a Nintendo game and other electronics.
Sillings is accused of stealing $340 planted by the FBI in the January raid, according to court documents. He is also accused of stealing at least six PlayStation video games from January 2010 through January 2011 during the execution of five separate search warrants.
Forrest is accused of stealing a Nintendo game, a Nintendo game case and an Apple iPod touch belonging to the FBI during the sting raid, according to court documents. In addition, Forrest is accused of stealing $300 during the sting raid.
A KCK woman, who didn't want her name used, complained after the July 2010 raid on her home. Her complaint set in motion the events that led to Monday's indictment.
"I was mad and frustrated," she said after the raid, particularly once she discovered her PlayStation console and camcorder were missing.
Too often the woman said residents don't bother to report such complaints when they involve police officers. As a result, the woman said the issues go undetected.
"I am glad I did (report the issue)," she said. "I am glad they are finally caught.... They should be punished."
If convicted of conspiracy, the three men face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of depriving the Haskell homeowner of her rights, then Bell and Forrest face one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. If convicted of stealing government property, each man faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Sillings, 33, has been with the department for 10 years, according to sources. Bell, also 33, has been with the department for seven years while Forrest, 31, just marked his eighth anniversary, according to sources.
The three officers had been placed on unpaid leave after the January raid and they remain on unpaid leave after the indictments were handed down by the federal grand jury in Wichita.
Ten officers initially were detained in early January. Three have returned to work while four remain on paid leave.
"Police officers are given tremendous power to fight crime and to keep us safe," Grissom said. "It is absolutely vital that we assure (that) they do not abuse that authority. The public must be able to have confidence that our officers treat everyone fairly, equally and with respect."
The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, Grissom said. Residents should not have to fear officers using their badges and weapons to steal property, he said.
"(Residents should) not be deprived of property without due process of law by one acting under color of law," Grissom said. "No police officer has the authority to violate those rights."
Authorities said they believe more items were stolen as officers executed search warrants and Grissom asked the public to contact the KCK Police Department's Internal Affairs Office about any such issues. He said he knows some residents may be fearful because police officers were involved, but encouraged residents to come forward.
To read more about the indictments, click here.
To read the indictments, click here.
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