Cop Watch

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Kansas City police officer arrested in sting for stealing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A police officer has been charged with stealing money from a motorist in a sting set up by the Kansas City Police Department to catch him.

Mershon Pope, 38, a seven-year veteran of the police force, was arrested Tuesday morning at his home and charged Wednesday with misconduct in administration of justice.

Police said they staged a traffic stop at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in which an officer supposedly pulled over and "arrested" an undercover federal agent, who was posing as a non-English speaking Hispanic driver.

The first officer called Pope for help, then said she had to leave on another call. That left Pope in charge of searching the driver, inventorying his property and taking him to jail.

Before calling Pope to the scene, police said they placed a $100 bill in the man's truck and $533 on him. The serial numbers on the money had been written down.

Court records say Pope stole the $100 from the seat of the truck and $150 from the man before he was booked into jail.

At the end of his shift, Pope went home, but was arrested at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Court records say police found $250 inside Pope's house in bills that matched the serial numbers of the money police had planted.

In a sworn statement, the arresting officers said Pope gave them a two-page typed statement detailing the theft.

It wasn't the first time Pope has been in trouble after being accused of stealing money from a suspect. In July 2003, he was suspended after a driver accused him of taking $950 from his front pocket in a traffic stop.

Pope was suspended with pay for almost a year while police investigated, but no charges were filed because the driver could not identify the officer. Pope was reinstated in June 2004.

Professor Sam Walker, a police corruption expert at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, said the fact that Pope was accused of stealing money from a man who pretended he could not speak English reflects a trend in police abuse of power.

He said immigrants, prostitutes and drug dealers often are singled out because it is assumed they won't report the crimes.

"These people are legally vulnerable, and they do not want to bring themselves to the attention of the authorities," Walker said.