WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Part of “Continuing the Conversation” on diversity and inclusion involves the topic of police reform. And a key person in that conversation is Wichita City Councilman Brandon Johnson because he is also the new chairman of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (KSCPOST).
KSN asked Johnson if, even as an elected official, he has had incidents where he felt afraid.
“Feel afraid, yeah,” said Johnson. “Not as afraid as I used to be, and that’s privilege for me just being an elected.”
It is a feeling that never goes away for him as an African American man living in Wichita, even being on the Wichita City Council.
“If an officer gets behind me, I tend to try to get into a different lane,” he said. “It’s just something that has still bothered me to this day, and it’s not the day I got arrested,” referring to a 2005 arrest when he was 19.
“It’s all the other incidents I’ve had with law enforcement, growing up seeing the Rodney Kings and seeing the personal things that I had experienced. At 19, I had already been racially profiled multiple times here in Wichita.”
We asked Johnson what police reform looks like in his eyes.
“I look at the community policing model,” he said. “What I would always prefer is law enforcement kind of living in the community they police, that way you better know your neighborhood and business owners.”
Johnson says he supports changing or eliminating qualified immunity for police officers.
“They need protections because of the job they have,” he said. “But if you’re making an egregious mistake or an intentional mistake like George Floyd, you shouldn’t be protected. You should have no defense that the citizen doesn’t have. And oftentimes law enforcement has more protection than the citizen has that they serve, and I don’t really agree with that.”
Governor Laura Kelly appointed Johnson as the new chairman of the KSCPOST which is not only in charge of law enforcement training across Kansas, but has the power to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification.
Reporter Bret Buganski posed this question to Johnson, “I go to a restaurant, and I can find out if there have been any health violations. If I buy a house from a realtor, I can find out if any shady dealings have been done with that realtor. But when it comes to excessive force complaints against an officer or deputy or any other member of law enforcement, I can’t find that record. Is that right?”
“No, not at all,” said Johnson. “I mean even going into more detail exactly what you just said. You know these folks are serving the public, and so if a restaurant you can see that, why not see that with an officer? If you are a good cop, you have nothing to worry about. If your record, you have no issues, you have nothing to worry about. The only folks who should be worried are the folks who’ve had these excessive force issues or continued issues in different communities they’ve been moved around a lot.”
Johnson said he would like to see officers complete cultural competency training as well as crisis intervention training. Johnson said he would push to change or eliminate qualified immunity, not necessarily as the head of KSCPOST, but as a member of Wichita City Council and as a community activist.
The Wichita Police department says that all officers receive mental health first aid training, and some receive more extensive crisis intervention training, known as CIT. Crisis Intervention Team officers are assigned at each bureau in the city but can be deployed to situations city-wide if CIT officers are requested.