- Associated Press - Saturday, April 11, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Recent high-profile shootings involving police officers are hampering at least one Kansas police department’s efforts to recruit new officers, though the well for candidates is far from dry.

In an interview this week with The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1Czra05 ), Police Chief James Brown acknowledged that law enforcement is under a microscope in the aftermath of fatal shootings of black men by white police officers.

On Tuesday, a white officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, was charged with murder after he was seen on video shooting and killing a fleeing black man. The video threatens to reignite tensions between officers and black residents after a series of encounters going back to the August death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Speaking of a training academy class his department might host in June, the chief said “the recruiting is a little bit difficult right now.”

“In years past in Topeka, when we’ve put out applications to hire 15 to 20 officers, sometimes we would get 700 applications,” Brown said. “I think currently right now we’ve had four testing dates and of those four testing dates we’ve only had 250 applicants apply.”

A lot of young people would be interested in law enforcement if not for the “turbulent times,” he said.

Michael Brown’s death and the ensuing unrest in the suburban St. Louis community led the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the city’s police practices and municipal court. The result was a scathing 105-page report that Chief Brown read early last month.

“During the report, one of the things they mentioned was this disobeying a lawful order,” Brown said. “I’m like, hey, we have a municipal code that’s similar to that so maybe we should just take a look at it because there is a similarity in that particular city ordinance and the city ordinance that was in Missouri.’”

Topeka’s Municipal Code makes it illegal for anyone to refuse to comply with a lawful order or direction of a police officer or other peace officer in the discharge of his or her duties.

The Justice Department said a similar ordinance was abused by officers in Ferguson to justify physical force and to issue of arrest warrants.

That’s not happening in Topeka, Brown said.

“Basically, in the last two years we’ve had 238 cases that were persons being arrested for failure to obey a lawful order, which represents about 1.2 percent of all cases filed in municipal court so the number’s very, very small,” he said.

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