Kansas City, Missouri, detective alleges he was demoted after reporting coworker for conducting illegal search

Posted at 3:48 PM, Aug 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-13 17:24:49-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — A detective in the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department alleges he was retaliated and discriminated against for reporting a coworker for conducting an illegal search.

Arthur Willingham, who worked as a KCPD narcotics detective from September 2005 until Feb. 3, 2022, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Police Commissioners of Kansas City.

On Oct. 5, 2021, Willingham was working with another detective at the Greyhound bus station at 1101 Troost Avenue in KCMO.

A K-9 alerted officers to two suitcases in the luggage department of a bus.

Willingham and the other detective searched the two suitcases and did not find any drugs.

While putting the luggage back, Willingham observed the other detective searching a different bag without consent.

He asked the detective why he was doing so, and the detective said it “was not what he usually does.”

After the incident, Willingham notified a sergeant and began a report of what he witnessed.

His supervisors later elected to issue an "Instructional Notice." However, the detective did not face any discipline.

At this time, Willingham was a Task Force Officer for the Drug Enforcement Administration in addition to his role as a detective, meaning he was expected to submit federal cases to the United States Attorney's Office.

He reported the other detective's illegal search to the USAO on Jan. 11, 2022, but review was declined.

Shortly after, supervisors notified Willingham that he'd be transferred to the Central Patrol Division while KCPD conducted an investigation into the matter.

The demotion stripped him of his DEA credentials along with his KCPD laptop, cellphone and assigned vehicle.

Willingham is suing for retaliation in violation of the Missouri Whistleblower's Protection Act and retaliation in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act.

KCPD tells KSHB 41 Willingham is currently employed as a detective assigned to the investigations bureau. The department also provided a statement regarding the lawsuit:

“While we do not generally speak about details of pending civil litigation to ensure fairness for all sides involved, and other department members who may be involved in such personnel matters, we want to assure the public that the KCPD is committed to ensuring a fair and equitable workplace free from harassment or discrimination. Also, regarding investigative requirements and guidelines, we are very familiar with the requirements of the 4th Amendment and have several layers of supervisory accountability and review within our department and as part of the investigative partnership with our federal partners.”