Rapper Jay Z’s social justice organization slammed the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday for failing to investigate “vast claims of corruption, coercion, rape, and murder committed” by Kansas City’s police department.
“This is more than just a cry for help from middle America,” Team Roc’s letter, which was written with the Midwest Innocence Project, began. “The police and eyewitness reports of criminal behavior perpetrated by members of the Kansas City, Kansas, police department over the past several decades, are staggering. They detail graphic accounts of rape, murder, sex trafficking, and corruption so rampant and so blatant, it would be shocking if even a single allegation were true.
“And yet your department refuses to act,” the letter read.
Team Roc urged the DOJ to protect the civil rights of vulnerable communities of color in Kansas by investigating the department. In the organization’s second official request to Associate Attorney General Venita Gupta, Team Roc claimed that the DOJ had forgotten its duties to the public.
Jay’s organization alleged that racism has been at the root of many issues with the police department—and a major reason why so many cases of corruption have been overlooked.
Along with the open letter, Team Roc released a video that featured victims of the police department and their family members. A woman, who was Black, recounted how the police refused to help her mother because she was a sex worker. Another Black woman claimed that she was assaulted in a police station. When another officer accidentally walked in while the act was happening, she said he just closed the door and walked away.
“It’s just a lot of dirty cops here,” said Star Cooper, whose mother was a sex worker.
A federal investigation was launched against former Detective Roger Golubski in October 2021 for allegedly harassing and exploiting Black people in Kansas City, according to NBC 41 Kansas City. Team Roc previously filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City police for records detailing the officer’s alleged criminal activities.
“[Kansas City police] are no longer in a position to police themselves,” Team Roc’s attorney, Alex Spiro, told The Daily Beast. “DOJ needs to come in and give a holistic look and [monitor] the situation to figure out what is really going on.”
In September 2021, Team Roc filed a court order for records of misconduct within the Kansas City Police Department, blaming the “blue veil of silence” for corrupt officers getting away with their misdeeds.
“For decades,” the order stated, “members of the KCKPD abused their positions of power and authority to solicit and coerce fabricated witness statements and testimony, plant evidence, procure sexual favors, withhold exculpatory evidence, and conceal their own misconduct and ignore the misconduct of others. These abuses were enabled by the KCKPD’s failure to adequately train and supervise its officers. …And all the while, the blue veil of silence within the KCKPD has allowed these bad actors to avoid any accountability.”
Team Roc filed its first official request for an investigation of Kansas City police in October 2021 after members felt they had adequate evidence showing the abuse of Black and brown people at the hands of officers.
“We’ve been working with folks on the ground to gather as much information as possible, speak to witnesses, look at documents, and fully immerse ourselves with facts and circumstances,” Spiro said. “The further we went, the more troubling it became. We felt we had enough for an investigation, we contacted the Department of Justice, we let them know that we wanted to meet and what the information was, and they had not prioritized it.”
Months later, the DOJ still has not responded and Team Roc is trying to force the department to take some responsibility.
Spiro said that Team Roc ultimately hopes that the DOJ will work with them in the investigation and offer their resources to really dig into claims of corruption within the department.
“They have the resources and position to make a difference there. I can keep trying to help one-off cases and one-off people, but if it’s part of a culture there, then it’s problematic,” Spiro added. “We as a private entity and even our charitable function can’t solve all of it. What we’re trying to do is change it, change the system itself so that it’s better for everybody moving forward.”