Officer Involved Critical Incident Investigative Team (OICIIT)
In 2005 the Johnson County Police Chief and Sheriff’s Association created the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team (OISIT). The District Attorney’s office was a member of this organization. At that time, most law enforcement agencies investigated their own officers in deadly-force situations. The purpose of this change was to create an independent organization to investigate deadly-force incidents, thus avoiding the appearance of favoritism or a conflict of interest.
The team was made up of experienced and specially trained investigators. The team used current investigative best practices in conducting these investigations.
In 2023 the Association changed the name of the investigative team to the “Officer Involved Critical Incident Investigative Team (OICIIT)” to better identify its purpose and scope.
With the approval of their agencies, law enforcement officers submit their applications to the Johnson County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association. The applicant’s experience, training and skills are reviewed by the Association. A majority of the Association must approve the officer’s application. The OICIIT team currently has 64 members. They have a total of 1,255 years of experience. Making 19 years the average years of experience of its members.
OICIIT Activation and Investigation
If a Johnson County law enforcement agency is involved in a critical incident (usually involving deadly force), that agency requests activation of the OICIIT team. The District Attorney may also request activation of the team. Designated OICIIT leaders then contact team members to respond to the scene and take over the investigation. The involved agency observes the investigative process but does not participate in the investigation. OICIIT members from the involved agency do not participate in the investigation. The Johnson County Crime lab is also part of the team and responds to all incidents. The District Attorney is also notified and will typically have designated staff involved in the investigation from its inception. The team conducts its investigation using the best law-enforcement practices informed by specialized training that its members undergo.
Once the investigation is completed an investigative file is submitted to District Attorney for review.
The District Attorney’s Findings
It is the responsibility of the District Attorney to determine if an officer’s use of force was lawful under Kansas law. The DA considers the following:
- All relevant Kansas Statutes, including Kansas self-defense laws that apply both exclusively to law enforcement officers and to all citizens;
- Applicable State and Federal Court decisions;
- Kansas self-defense law requires resolution of two questions:
- Did the officer have a subjective belief that use of deadly force was necessary to protect the officer’s life or lives of others?
- Was this belief objectively reasonable based on facts?
District Attorney review is limited in scope
The DA’s review of a critical incident is usually limited to a determination of whether the officer’s actions violated Kansas criminal law. The DA does not determine:
- Whether or not the officer violated the agency’s policies; and what if any administrative action that should be taken. This is the responsibility of the involved agency. It is possible that an agency’s policies may prohibit conduct that is lawful under Kansas law.
- Whether there is any civil liability for the officer’s actions. Involved parties may have a right to relief in civil court regardless of the outcome of a criminal investigation.
It is important for our community to understand the basis for the District Attorney’s decision regarding an officer’s use of deadly force. This will help maintain trust in the criminal justice system. Once a decision is made by my office, the DA generates a written opinion which is released to the public. It outlines the relevant facts and their application to Kansas law.
In some instances, a press conference is held. This may include the playing of relevant videos to bring clarity to the decision. When a citizen is killed by the use of force, the DA will offer to personally meet with the family prior to any public release of information. During that meeting the DA will provide them with the decision and try to answer their questions. Kansas Law permits a viewing of any videos of the incident by the involved individual or their immediate family members.
Some details of the cases will not be made public to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. This includes victims, witnesses and the officer involved in the incident. If charges are filed against the involved citizen or the officer, those names will be released to the public upon the filing of criminal charges. If there is a pending criminal case associated with this use of force, public comments and release of information will be limited pursuant to Kansas Supreme Court Rule 3.6. Despite these limitations, all criminal court proceedings are open to the public. Further comments are permitted at the conclusion of the criminal case.
These situations are tragic. However, not every tragedy results in criminal charges. It is the duty of the District Attorney to follow Kansas law when making these decisions. Johnson County is a national leader in the way it investigates deadly-force situations. OICIIT helps ensure that the public maintains confidence in our criminal justice system.