The first of the SCORE unit lawsuits against the Unified Government goes to trial next week

Back in 2011, the FBI was part of a sting operation that sought to catch a specialized unit of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department in the act of stealing valuables from the houses upon which it executed search warrants.

Dubbed “Operation Sticky Fingers,” the KCKPD’s Selective Crime Occurrence Reduction Enforcement Unit (SCORE) was sent to a house in KCK where Nintendo devices and cash had been planted, almost like bait. The sting unit was set up after authorities received complaints about thefts occurring at other residences entered by the SCORE unit in 2010. (KCK’s SCORE unit is the functional equivalent of what’s commonly referred to as a SWAT team.)

As FBI agents and KCKPD personnel watched on electronic surveillance, some members of the 10-officer SCORE unit were caught grabbing the electronics and cash on their way out. Afterward, all 10 members of the SCORE unit were taken to the parking garage at the KCKPD headquarters and put under arrest.

Days later, three members of the SCORE unit — Dustin Sillings, Darrell Forrest and Jeffrey Bell — were charged by federal prosecutors. All three would later plead guilty and would spend eight months to a year in prison. 

Others who were arrested but not charged have sued the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, and several members of the KCK police department, alleging that their constitutional rights were violated when they were placed under arrest without probable cause.

The lawsuits started hitting federal court dockets in 2011. Now, more than four years later, one of those cases is heading to trial in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, next week. Patrick Callahan, one of the officers rounded up in the SCORE sting, claims he was stationed outside the entrance of the house and that authorities should have known he wasn’t among those stealing property. The UG maintains that the agents surveilling the sting couldn’t readily identify who was taking the bait from the video. Callahan, the UG says, was among three officers who were never handcuffed and who consented to a search.

Callahan’s case, like those of his other colleagues suing the Unified Government, has a long procedural history in the courts, going up to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at times to hash out lower-court rulings.

The trial begins before U.S. District Court of Kansas Judge Kathryn Vratil on Monday morning in Kansas City, Kansas. Callahan seeks $2.2 million.

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