Overland Park officers on leave amid criminal investigation of police charity

·2 min read
Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

Members of the Overland Park Police Department have been put on paid administrative leave as the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office is investigating criminal allegations concerning a nonprofit foundation affiliated with the local police union.

The investigation stems from the findings of an audit of the Overland Park Police Officers Foundation that was reported to members of the Fraternal Order of Police last week, union president Dianna Johnson said in a statement Tuesday. New business related to the foundation has since been suspended as a result of the audit, Johnson said.

“Due to the audit findings, and because the prior directors are police officers, it is our duty to turn over these findings to law enforcement for investigation,” Johnson said in the statement, adding: “We would like to thank all the residents and businesses that have continued to support us over the years and want to assure you the actions of a few do not in any way represent the majority of committed law enforcement professionals at the Overland Park Police Department.”

The foundation is a charity that advertises itself as helping law enforcement officers and their families in situations where an officer is seriously hurt or killed. It also aims to pursue and provide support for educational opportunities, according to tax papers filed with the IRS.

Questions about the disbursement of funds and overall spending were first brought to the foundation’s directors in early 2021 by union leaders, Johnson said. Earlier this year, new directors took over control of the foundation and began reviewing financial records, which prompted the hiring of a forensic accountant to take a deeper look at the foundation’s books.

Meg Ralph, a spokeswoman for Overland Park, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the city had been made aware of an investigation of possible criminal activity concerning the foundation. She said those officers would remain on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Details including the total number of officers put on leave and their names were not immediately disclosed.

Melody Webb, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, confirmed in a statement Tuesday that the matter was under review. But she declined to provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation.

According to public tax documents filed with the IRS, the Overland Park Police Officers Foundation received $353,454 in contributions and grants in the 2019 tax year, the most recent publicly available. During the same time frame the foundation reported spending $248,435 on professional services related to fundraising, or about 70% of its gross income.

A website for the foundation was offline as of Tuesday afternoon.