Sam Zeff | KBIA

Sam Zeff

Sam covers education for KCUR. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.

Sam began his career at KANU in Lawrence. He hosted Morning Edition at WHYY in Philadelphia where he also covered organized crime, politics and government corruption.

The Overland Park, Kansas native has won a National News and Documentary Emmy for investigative reporting, four Edward R. Murrow awards and four National Headliner Awards.  Sam was assistant news director at the ABC station in the Twin Cities, executive producer at the NBC station in St. Louis and executive producer of special projects at the CBS stations in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Sam was educated at the University of Kansas.

It’s 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, and officers Kelsey Wingate and Uriel Ojeda from the Kansas City Police Department's Central Patrol Division are already behind.

“We’re starting our shift with all these calls waiting for officer response," Ojeda says as he settles in behind the wheel and turns on the laptop.

Almost a dozen calls for service pop up. "That’s very common for us," says Wingate.

Like most big criminal cases, the odometer fraud ring that Missouri Highway Patrol Cpl. Nate Bradley recently busted started with one victim.

"A gentleman came to my shop here in Lee's Summit and he said, 'Hey, I bought this car, and I think I got swindled,'" Bradley recalls. "So I started looking into it and sure enough, he got swindled."

Over a five-year investigation, Bradley eventually uncovered 48 victims of a rollback scheme around Kansas City, according to a grand jury indictment in a case that was recently unsealed.

Garden City Community College Trustees voted Tuesday to spend $100,000 on an independent investigation into the exertional heatstroke death of a football player last August.

The family and friends of 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth from Neptune, New Jersey, have been calling for an independent probe since the teen died after a conditioning practice.

A man who was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $11 million in restitution for a wide-ranging mortgage fraud scheme, is back in jail.

Brent Barber, 54, was arrested by U.S. Marshalls when he reported to his parole officer at the downtown federal courthouse Thursday.

In his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lujana Counts, Barber wore a blue sweatshirt and high top sneakers. The one-time millionaire, who lived on a Loch Lloyd golf course, asked Counts for a free, court-appointed lawyer. 

Last week, ballots started arriving in Shawnee mailboxes, asking voters to decide on a $38 million bond issue to build a new community center with a pool and fitness center in the city's growing western end.

Garden City Community College has broken its silence and released a summary of an internal investigation into the death of a New Jersey football player after a practice in August 2018.

Braeden Bradforth died of exertional heat stroke, according to an autopsy, two days after arriving in Garden City from his home in Neptune, New Jersey. Former GCCC head coach Jeff Sims initially said the 19-year-old died from a blood clot.

Without fanfare, Kansas junior colleges have reinstated a cap on how many out-of-state scholarships they can offer in football.

Removing the cap was denounced by high school coaches and athletic directors around the state when the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) voted unanimously in 2015 to allow football and basketball programs to have as many out-of-state scholarship athletes as they wanted.

There is a chance that there might be two new jails in Jackson County in the next few years — one for the county and one for Kansas City.

It has been eight months since 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth collapsed and died after a football workout at Garden City Community College (GCCC).

Since then, the college has said little about the teen's death from exertional heat stroke after a grueling practice.

But that wall of silence may be breaking. "Kansas, can you hear me now?" the family's lawyer Jill Greene asked during a town hall meeting Thursday night at Friendship Baptist Church in Asbury Park, New Jersey. "Maybe we have a bad connection. We need to fix that."

There are only seven members of the Kansas City Police who patrol on horseback, but at the police board meeting on Tuesday, they were the most celebrated cops on the KCPD.

“I patrolled the same neighborhoods for many years," retired mounted officer Aaron Shillcutt told the board. In a patrol car, he said,  people run inside. "You change your uniform a little bit and you start riding a horse and everybody wants to talk to you.”

It will probably be another week before the Missouri River at Parkville, Missouri, is back in its banks. The latest National Weather Service map predicts sometime next Tuesday or Wednesday.

But merchants around the quaint downtown are weathering the flood just fine.

Hundreds of people packed an Olathe, Kansas, church on Sunday afternoon to hear from newly elected Rep. Sharice Davids at a town hall.

Davids had promised regular town halls during her campaign for the 1st Congressional District against former Rep. Kevin Yoder. People want to interact with their representatives, she said.

“Not just to hear from their representative but to be able to ask the questions and voice their opinions and their ideas and their concerns,” Davids said after Sunday's event.

As Kansas City council members get ready to approve a new budget, the city finds itself with a couple of million dollars more than expected.

City budget officer Scott Huizenga told the Finance and Governance Committee Wednesday that the city has about $2.5 million extra coming in this fiscal year.

Last August, a mother put her youngest son on a plane in New Jersey bound for Garden City Community College to play football in southwestern Kansas.

Just 48 hours later, the 19-year-old was dead.

The family knows how and when Braeden Bradforth died.

But in the six months since he collapsed in a narrow alley after a grueling conditioning practice in Broncbuster Stadium, questions remain about whether the death was preventable.

The number of criminal suspects who resist arrest in Kansas City has risen 60 percent over the past four years, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith told a city council committee Wednesday.

“To me, that’s a little bit alarming,” Smith told members of the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee. “It shows our officers are being put in positions to be assaulted or to be harmed by suspects.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas' 3rd District had been in office for less than 24 hours when Republicans came out swinging with an attack ad.

"With her very first vote in Congress, Sharice Davids caved to the party bosses and voted to support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker," says a female narrator, with chilling music in the background.

Jackson County legislators had lots of questions for Sheriff Darryl Forte, given that he just took over the troubled downtown jail.

But at a budget hearing Tuesday they got few answers since the sheriff was absent for much of the meeting. A sheriff's office spokesman said Forte was in a deposition during the hearing, but he did show up toward the end. He sent civilian jail administrators in his place. 

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, the new congresswoman from Kansas' 3rd District, will meet with Republican Sen. Jerry Moran this week and lobby him to vote for a House bill that would reopen the government, Davids said on Sunday.

Even breweries are feeling the pinch of the partial federal government shutdown.  

“The regulating body that we have to submit all of our labels to, to get approved by is shut down,” says James Stutsman, founder of City Barrel Brewing.

Stutsman shared his story on KCUR's Central Standard Wednesday.

After three years of investigation and review, a dark chapter in the history of the Kansas City Police Department appears to have come to a close.

An internal investigation, uncovered two years ago by the Kansas City Star, showed a massive failure in KCPD's Crimes Against Children's unit.

Some 19,000 federal government workers are scattered across the Kansas City area. As the federal government shutdown continues, most of them are looking at a second missed paycheck.

Many small businesses with government contracts are also dealing with uncertainty, although there is one certainty: Things can change quickly.

The day after Christmas, a 33-year-old motorcycle driver was run over and killed after a crashing into a Buick in Kansas City's Northland.

It was the city's 85th fatal accident of 2018. And while that is a lot for a city the size of Kansas City, it is better than the city's 100 fatal accidents in 2017.

After months of tense negotiations behind closed doors, the Kansas City Council passed a series of changes Thursday that it hopes will cut into bad scrap yard behavior. 

Several times in the past months, a deal was said to be close but it ultimately fell part.

(This story was updated at 3 p.m.)

The latest defections from the Kansas Republican Party — two Johnson County legislators — show politicians in some corners of the state trying to catch up with changes in the voters they need to win over.

In quick succession Wednesday morning, Republican moderates state Sen. Dinah Sykes and state Rep. Stephanie Clayton announced they are changing parties.

They followed the path of moderate Republican state Sen. Barbara Bollier, who declared herself a Democrat earlier this month.

Auto theft is up 20 percent in the last year in Kansas City. It’s the only property crime on the rise nationwide.

So what can you do?

In a few states, they charge you a little more for your auto insurance to pay for more cops and prosecutors.

Michigan is one of those states. For years, it was the stolen car capital of America.

In a post-election bombshell, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, Kansas, has defected to the Democrats just ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

Sen. Barbara Bollier tells KCUR the party of Donald Trump frightens her and the last election proves the Kansas GOP belongs to the president.

Updated, 4:56 p.m. Monday

On a six-three vote Monday the Jackson County Legislature approved the pension change.

Lawmakers in favor said it was unfair to deny someone money they had already earned.

The county Pension Board asked the Legislature to not change the rules citing potential problems with the IRS and the fact that the ordinance appears to benefit only income legislator Ron Finley.

Jackson County Executive Frank White could veto the ordinance. His office said he will examine the legislation before making a decision.

The phone scam that has ensnared the Kansas City Police Department has spread nationwide.

“What we’ve found is that the phone calls coming into our police department have increased and the locations have increased across the nation as well,” said KCPD spokesman Capt. Lionel Colon. "Most of the individuals targeted are from southern regions in the United States."

Kansas City might be four years and $2 billion away from a single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, but that doesn't mean it's too soon to start thinking about how to police it.

The last police officer in the tiny Cass County town of Garden City was fired Monday as he arrived at the office.

“I was met by the mayor, a sheriff’s deputy and an alderman and handed termination papers,” said 50-year-old Tom Albers, an 18 year veteran of the department.

The letter simply said "The City of Garden City Board of Alderman held an Emergency Executive Closed Session Meeting on November 15, 2018. Your employment with the City is hereby suspended without pay indefinitely."

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