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Ex-deputy, ex-Lawrence police officer could lose certification for alleged biased policing of young women

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The writing may be on the wall for a former Douglas County sheriff’s deputy and Lawrence police officer.

His reputation was so well known among local exotic dancers that his supervisor’s name and phone number were scrawled on the wall of a women’s bathroom stall in one club, according to testimony. 

He also made headlines after he allegedly used excessive force in arresting a Lawrence skateboarder, whose attorney later raised evidence that drew the officer’s credibility into question.

Despite numerous complaints and red flags, years passed before Brad Williams’ peace officer certification was challenged. 

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Williams — now working as an insurance salesman — testified that he has no plans to work in law enforcement again. But he’s challenging the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training’s push to revoke his certification. 

“Very frankly, I think it’s wrong,” he said during a hearing last month. “I’m here to defend my honor, my name, and just stand up for what’s right.”

Neither Williams nor the attorney who represented him in his KSCPOST hearing, his father-in-law, James Jarrow, responded to an email seeking comment for this article. 

Williams worked for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office from March 7, 2011 until May 9, 2017, then went to work for the Lawrence Police Department less than a week later.

He resigned from LPD on Jan. 6, 2021 — the day after his second interview with internal affairs amid an ongoing investigation. But Williams said he quit because another former officer had been recruiting him for a few months to sell insurance. 

As of Tuesday, the KSCPOST panel who heard his case had not made a decision about Williams’ certification.

By the numbers

According to testimony, Anthony Brixius, who was then interim chief of the Lawrence Police Department, received a complaint in late August 2020 from Jay Armbrister, now Douglas County sheriff. Brixius asked Lt. Mark Unruh, who had recently been assigned to the Office of Professional Accountability, to begin an internal investigation. 

The complaint was regarding concerns that Williams was targeting college-age women in his car stops and alcohol enforcement. 

Unruh testified that he found that from the time Williams’ employment with LPD began on May 15, 2017, through Sept. 14, 2020:

Williams had arrested 83 men and 147 women for allegedly operating under the influence (36% and 64%, respectively). Of the 147 women, 91 were between the ages of 18 and 25 — that’s 39.6% of Williams’ total OUI arrests. 

Williams had issued citations for minors allegedly in possession of alcohol to one man and 84 women (1.1% and 98.8%, respectively). 

That wasn’t the first time supervisors had concerns about who Williams was stopping and arresting. 

Back in 2016, his supervisors at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office noticed a pattern and looked at the numbers. They found that of Williams’ probable cause arrests at his own discretion — for instance, arrests that were not picking someone up on a warrant, or booking someone into jail after they were sentenced in court — he was arresting 55% women and 45% men. 

National and Douglas County averages are about 74% men and 26% women, according to testimony and jail records. 

However, at the time, DGSO supervisors did not think the difference appeared to be “totally egregious.” 

Douglas County jail booking records show hundreds of arrests that Williams made based on probable cause over the course of his law enforcement career. 

Mouse over or tap on a data point in the charts above for more information.

Of those arrests from 2014 through 2020, 24.9% were of women ages 18 to 25; another 24% were of women ages 26 and up; and 51% were of men. 

Broken down, Douglas County jail records for all other law enforcement officers’ bookings from 2014 through 2020 show that about 10.5% of people booked into the jail in probable cause arrests are women ages 18 to 25, and 16.1% women ages 26 and up.

But beyond the numbers, testimony during an Aug. 4 hearing before a panel of KSCPOST commissioners questioned Williams’ motives and integrity.

As a Douglas County deputy

During his employment as a deputy, Williams became certified as a drug recognition expert, meaning he was trained to see signs of substance impairment that perhaps not all law enforcement officers would recognize. 

A woman who was working in an adult entertainment club in the area in 2016 made three complaints about Williams, according to testimony. The first was in connection with a DUI arrest — another officer and an employee at the jail said they didn’t smell alcohol on the woman, and one of them told her she should file a complaint.

She had taken Adderall, a medication commonly prescribed for attention deficit disorder, about 10 hours prior, and she’d told Williams that during the traffic stop. 

Supervisors reviewed the stop, but “we couldn’t prove that she was not impaired,” Lyle Hagenbuch, who retired as a lieutenant in 2021 and now works as a part-time deputy, testified during Williams’ hearing. “… He saw things that we didn’t see.”

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Williams had stopped the same woman once more a couple of weeks after the first stop; on a third occasion, she saw him on the road and felt as though he was following her again. She complained that she felt like she was being harassed. 

The DUI case was eventually dismissed due to “evidentiary issues,” according to the motion in the case file. Williams testified that the former prosecutor on the case told him the dismissal was because she “wasn’t comfortable prosecuting an OUI or DUI arrest for drugs when the person was prescribed the medication they were under the influence of.” 

Another woman who was working as a dancer at the time told her attorney that Williams had stopped her four times within a couple of months. 

“The attorney expressed concerns that there were two stops that Mr. Williams didn’t call dispatch on and there was so there wasn’t a record of the stops,” Michelle Meier, counsel for KSCPOST, said during Williams’ hearing. 

“And then he specifically stated that after watching the video, the body cam, the attorney believes that Mr. Williams was exaggerating the truth about (the woman’s) driving,” Meier continued. “And so again, we’re starting to have that pattern; we’re starting to have that good moral character … are there exaggerations about what he’s actually observing and what he’s seeing?”

A third woman who was working at one of the clubs made a complaint that she believed she was targeted because of her employment. In that case, Williams’ supervisors had concerns that his written report did not include that he allegedly saw the woman stumble in the parking lot before she got in her car and drove off. 

Meier told the panel that she thought it was relevant that someone was concerned enough to write Williams’ supervisor’s name and phone number on the women’s restroom wall in one club. “It says if you have a — I’m paraphrasing, but essentially — if you have an issue with Bradley Williams, contact the supervisor,” Meier said during the hearing.

As a Lawrence police officer

A female LPD officer testified that she had complained to Williams’ supervisor once after she had backed him on a traffic stop. She said she didn’t think Williams was treating a female driver with respect. He wanted to have her vehicle towed when there was a sober driver able to take the vehicle.

“I didn’t think it was right,” the officer said. And when Williams took the driver into custody, she let the sober driver take the vehicle. “There was no reason to tow the vehicle.”

Asked whether she had ever seen Williams exhibit the same behavior in traffic stops of male drivers, she said “I don’t think I ever backed him on a stop with a male.”

The officer said although she had not witnessed it herself, she had heard from two male LPD officers that Williams would pull up next to a vehicle, see who was inside and then stop them.

She was concerned about backing him on traffic stops in general, she said. 

“A lot of us had talked about why he was stopping people, if it was a tag light or a brake light — a lot of people thought that he would pull next to the person, see if it was a male or female and then stop the car,” she said. “And we didn’t know what the basis for the stop was. So nobody wanted to back him on a traffic stop, because we didn’t want to get, you know, held liable for something that wasn’t legal.”

She also testified that she and another female officer who is no longer with LPD pulled up information in the department’s computer system to see who Williams was pulling over, the ratio of stops on one night was 10 women to 1 man. 

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Unruh testified that a third female officer had said she’d heard from her friends that during traffic stops, Williams “would flirt and would basically allude to sexual favors. She didn’t have anything to document this, but she said that this was the reputation of Officer Williams, and that’s what he had prior to coming to work for the Lawrence Police Department.” 

Meier did not present any evidence during the hearing regarding the case of the Lawrence skateboarder Williams had arrested in 2019. (A related civil rights lawsuit is ongoing in federal court.)

Jarrow briefly began to ask Williams questions about a traffic stop involving an African American passenger; Meier objected, saying that she was not introducing a complaint of racial bias for the panel, though she was not waiving that claim.

Williams’ defense

Specifically, the proposed summary order of revocation in Williams’ case says his law enforcement certification should be revoked because he does not meet the qualifications of having “good moral character,” and that he has used racial or other bias-based policing. 

REDACTED-B-Williams-Summary-Order

Williams said he usually worked night shifts, and he generally did not know who he was pulling over before he made stops. 

“There may have been a very select few times where it was obvious and it was known,” he testified. “But the overwhelming majority of the time, it was not.”

He said traffic enforcement became a passion for him.

“I had the unfortunate experience of working drunk driving fatalities and seeing the effect on families and friends, and it just became a passion of mine to try and mitigate and prevent that,” Williams testified. 

He also denied ever asking any drivers for any exchange for a sexual favor. 

“Officer Williams doesn’t have to be here. He has no plans to return to law enforcement. He’s happy where he’s at. He’s here to defend his honor,” Jarrow told the panel during his closing arguments. “And it is a terrible, terrible thing to be accused of something that you did not do.” 

“We do not have a pattern,” Jarrow continued. “What we have is, the state has created Frankenstein. They’ve taken body parts from a bunch of different situations.”

Meier said Williams had told a KSCPOST investigator that his observations were that underage women drinking in bars would act differently from underage men. 

“We’ve got the language here of ‘males are calm, they say hello, they high-five the officer.’ We have ‘females attempt flight from the bar and they’re fearful,’” she said. “It is fine for Mr. Williams to say ‘Hey, in my experience, these individuals did this.’ What is not OK is to say, ‘Males do this and females do this.’ If we changed this to ‘Muslims act a certain way when they’re stopped,’ or ‘a person of color acts a certain way, but a white person does not,’  I don’t think we’d have any disagreement about whether that’s OK.” 

Jarrow said that what Meier had characterized as bias-based policing regarding underage drinkers was “actually called good police work.” 

“Is it valid to rely upon your experience? Of course it is,” Jarrow said, arguing that Williams had stated that those were the behaviors that he had observed in his experience.

According to Jarrow’s closing arguments, Williams wrote in a statement during LPD’s investigation that Armbrister had a motive to file a complaint against him: Williams had been attempting to recruit DGSO deputies to work for LPD. 

Armbrister, who was not called to testify in Williams’ hearing, said Tuesday that this was the first he had heard of Williams attempting to recruit anyone from the sheriff’s office and “at no time” was he concerned about that.

“My complaint was based solely on doing what was right to protect our citizens from predatory police officers and their practices that ruin public trust for the good law enforcement officers in this county and city,” Armbrister said.

When asked if LPD would like to comment, and if she could clarify the timeline of when LPD’s investigation into Williams ended and how KSCPOST became involved, Laura McCabe, a spokesperson for LPD, responded that “the city doesn’t comment on matters pending against former employees.” She did not respond to a follow-up email asking if another publication quoting her on the matter had been inaccurate. 

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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