News organizations condemn police raid on Kansas newspaper
In a letter to the police chief of the Kansas city police department, dozens of news organizations condemned the raid on a Kansas newspaper and its publisher’s home on Sunday.
A four-page letter was sent to Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which included 34 news and press freedom organizations, including The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times.
“Newsroom searches and seizures are among the most intrusive actions law enforcement can take with respect to the free press, and the most potentially suppressive of free speech,” the letter said.
An article published Wednesday about a local business owner prompted the raid, according to Eric Meyer, co-owner of the Marion County Record. According to the search warrant, authorities are investigating what they are calling “identity theft” and “unlawful acts regarding computers.”
“Based on public reporting, the search warrant that has been published online, and your public statements to the press, there seems to be no justification for the breadth and intrusiveness of the search — particularly when other investigative steps may have been available — and we are concerned that it may have violated federal law that strictly limits federal, state, and local law enforcement’s ability to conduct newsroom searches,” said the letter.
A raid at the Marion County Record resulted in the seizure of computers, cell phones, and other materials, Meyer confirmed. Law enforcement officials were allowed to seize a list of items in the search warrant, including “documents and records pertaining to Kari Newell,” the business owner featured in the story, Meyer said.
Her credentials were unlawfully used by Marion County Record to obtain information that was only available to law enforcement, private investigators, and insurance companies.
Cody could not provide details about Friday’s raid, saying it remains an ongoing criminal investigation, but he provided a rationale for the raid.
In a statement, Cody said he believes the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated once the rest of the story is revealed to the public. As well as the entire judicial process, I appreciate all the help I have received from the state and local investigators.”
According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the police department should return the items to the paper.
“Please immediately return the seized material to the Record, purge any records that may already have been accessed, and initiate an independent and transparent review of your department’s actions.”