New Independent Ombudsman Begins Work
By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Bishop James Johnston, Jr., recently announced that the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph has engaged Captain Joseph Crayon previously of the Kansas City Police Department as its new Independent Ombudsman. Crayon began his new duties July 1 following his retirement from a 32-year career with the police department.
The diocese created the position of Ombudsman in 2011 as part of its response to failures made in handling a case of the creation of child pornography by a diocesan priest. The Ombudsman serves as an independent contractor with a broad commission to receive and investigate all accusations of child sexual abuse and boundary violations with a minor against any cleric, employee or volunteer of the diocese, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. The Ombudsman is further empowered to independently report cases of child sexual abuse to civil authorities and law enforcement without supervision or approval by diocesan officials.
Capt. Crayon replaces Jenifer Valenti, a former attorney and investigator with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, who in April accepted the leadership of the Office of Child and Youth Protection in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. At the time Valenti began her service with the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, she was the first Independent Ombudsman in any U.S. diocese.
Capt. Crayon, one of nine children, was born and raised in New York State. Growing up, he always wanted to be a police officer, as his father was. Capt. Crayon moved to the Midwest during his college years and graduated from the Kansas City Police Academy.
Among other positions during his career with the KCPD, Crayon served as a detective in the Vice, Homicide and Internal Affairs units. With Internal Affairs, he investigated allegations of misconduct, improper behavior and corruption among department members.
Following his promotion to Sergeant in 2002, he served as the supervisor of detectives in the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes sections. As Sergeant, he also designed and implemented the then newly initiated Sex Crimes Cold Case Squad.
Promoted to Captain in 2011, Crayon served as Watch Commander, overseeing the operations of an entire Patrol Division, and was later manager of the Traffic Investigations and Fleet Operations units.
Captain Crayon is married, with two children. He is a member of St. Thomas More Parish, the Knights of Columbus, and an adult leader with Boy Scout Troop #601. He also enjoys coaching middle school baseball, basketball and football.
Crayon was additionally vetted for the position as Ombudsman by lay leaders and experts who are members of the diocesan Independent Review Board.
In his application, Crayon said he saw the Ombudsman position as an opportunity to assist the Church in its renewal. “Members of the Church will renew their trust in the Church if they believe the sins of the past are truly and forcefully investigated and dealt with,” he said. “The healing process will only succeed if members believe a truly good faith effort has been made.”
The fact that the Ombudsman is independent is very important, he said. “We are unbiased, not beholden to anyone politically or in any other way, even church administration.”
During a conversation a week into his new duties, Capt. Crayon explained that he believes his training and service with the KCPD, particularly as a detective with Internal Affairs, in the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes unit and on the Sex Crimes Cold Case Squad, equipped him with the ability and expertise to conduct professional, ethical, objective and careful investigations. He knows the value of collaborating with other investigators and prosecutors when working on cases, as well as other professionals in the field.
“I don’t want cases to feel forgotten,” he said. “Even if, in the end, we can’t solve a case, we can get support services for the victims to help with the lingering trauma. We are helping people heal.”
He is a firm believer in continued training and conferences on relevant topics such as sex crimes that help investigators and victim advocates relate to others in the field.
He has met with the members of the Independent Review Board and appreciates that the board aligns with Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio, a universal call for increased lay involvement in the Church.
Capt. Crayon urges continued education on the topic of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, and vigilance. “Every time we believe the problem is solved,” he said, “a new scandal erupts. We need to get over the hump, by bringing justice for the victims and to the perpetrators.”
Carrie Cooper, Director of the diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection, agreed. “Let’s bring justice as much as we can,” she said. “And, educate people on the topic.”
Cooper said she is confident that his work will help to heal victims and that it will have a ripple effect and help families and friends heal also.
Capt. Crayon hopes, “If we can help victims of sexual abuse heal, and renew and build trust in the Church, we may bring in new disciples and bring back those who have distanced themselves from the Church.”
Remember, if you are a victim of sexual abuse, observe or suspect sexual abuse, first call the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline: 1(800) 392-3738 if the victim is currently under age 18; contact your local law enforcement agency or call 911. After reporting to these civil and law enforcement authorities, report suspected sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult to Captain Joseph Crayon, diocesan Independent Ombudsman, (816) 812-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org, if the abuse involves a priest, deacon employee or volunteer of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
“Going forward,” Capt. Crayon said, “oversight will help people feel safer.”