WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Body camera footage detailing an incident between a Wichita Police Department (WPD) officer and Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple during a neighborhood cleanup event has been released.
Whipple is calling for a review of the city’s body camera policies after he says the officer’s body camera failed to document the officer yelling at him. KSN obtained the footage Thursday morning through a Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) request.
Shortly after the video begins, Whipple is seen calling City Manager Robert Layton. Whipple told KSN he unintentionally pulled into the wrong driveway at the Machinists Union near the intersection of Meridian Ave. and I-235 in south Wichita during a District 4 neighborhood cleanup event.
Driving an older red Ford Ranger, Whipple claims Officer Atlee Vogt with the WPD did not turn on his body camera until after the officer acted inappropriately toward Whipple.
In the video, Whipple asks Layton who the current police chief is, as former interim chief Lem Moore stepped down on Sept. 30.
“Hey, Bob,” Whipple says. “I’m getting screamed at by one of your cops. Who is the chief now?” Layton responds that Lem Moore is still chief. Moore had been serving as interim chief but announced his retirement in August.
The video shows Whipple telling Layton that Vogt doesn’t know who he is, “he’s just screaming at me to turn around,” Whipple says. Later, Vogt says he knows who he is but did not initially recognize him.
Whipple asks how to report the officer, and Layton says he can file the report with him or with Moore.
“This guy just went nuts on me because I turned into a parking lot the wrong — yeah, he’s here right now,” Whipple said.
On the phone, Layton asks Officer Vogt if he can let Whipple pass through, to which Vogt says, “I cannot, unfortunately.” Whipple tells Layton he was told by Vogt he was “no longer welcome” at the neighborhood cleanup event.
Layton gets the information needed and hangs up the phone. The officer then leaves Whipple to find Rebecca Fields, community services representative for District 4. Whipple asks Vogt as he is walking away if he can dump his stuff, and the officer tells him there are no dumpsters available.
Vogt finds Fields and tells her he “probably just got us all in a little hot water.” He then explains to Fields his side of the incident.
“Well, I told him to turn around and leave, and he refused and said, ‘I need to ask you a question.’ I said, ‘No, you need to turn around and go back out,’ because he drove around our cars and came in here. I said, ‘No, you need to turn around,’ so now he told me, ‘this is because you’re being rude to me and you’re yelling at me.’
“I said, ‘No, you need to turn around and leave.’ So he called Layton and filed a complaint on me because I’m rude, and he wants to know about if he can go ahead and dump his stuff, and I said, ‘No, we don’t have a dumpster for you to dump your stuff,'” Vogt tells Fields.
“I can’t stand him. Where’s he at now?” Fields asks.
Whipple joins Fields and explains that he believes he is able to use the neighborhood cleanup because the house from where the property was coming from was in the district. Fields tells him it is only for the residential area, and Whipple says the property is from his home.
Fields tells Whipple someone from the district shared the event on Facebook, and many people from outside the district were coming in to dump their trash, even though they would be ineligible.
The incident ended cordially, with an apology from Vogt to Whipple. Eventually, Whipple was able to dump his trash in a dumpster.
“I’m sorry that you felt that I was rude. I didn’t recognize you at first,” Vogt tells Whipple. “The reason we’re so strict on the rules is because it gets ridiculous. And somebody else had followed you in immediately, which is why it amplifies the problem. That’s why we try to redirect as quickly and as fast as we could.”
Whipple spoke with KSN about the interaction shown in the video.
“My goal wasn’t to … I guess … cause me any problems for one of our officers, but instead just use it as a learning experience so that when folks who might be stressed or interacting with the public, you know, they know to try not to escalate it or makes anything into a big deal if it shouldn’t be,” said Whipple.
Whipple says he thought the entire interaction would be caught on the body camera video. When he requested to see the video, he said he was “shocked” to learn the entire incident wasn’t recorded.
“I’ve heard from folks that body cams are manipulated. And I didn’t believe it because the police chief told me no – body cameras are on every time you interact with someone.”
Whipple said he wasn’t trying to “pull the mayor card” when calling Layton to report the incident.
“Some cop was having a bad day, frankly can’t just veto the policy here, so that’s when I called the city manager and just said, hey, we have an officer here who is trying to kick people out.”
Whipple maintains this incident leads to further questions about the WPD policy.
Officers do not have cameras recording for their entire shift but are expected to “make every effort to activate” the camera to record citizen contact.
“As I look at what this footage is, it is different from how I was told the policy for body cameras goes, and that’s the most concerning thing,” Whipple said.
Witness’ view of the interaction
Following the confrontation with Whipple, Officer Vogt approached witnesses who saw the interaction to get their perspective. These witnesses were filmed on the body cameras.
The footage shows Vogt talking to a man and a woman. The man told officers he didn’t believe Whipple did anything to “diffuse the situation” and that, even though he supports Whipple, he believes he was “in the wrong.”
At one point, the man tells the officer, “you were starting to get a little bit,” when the officer interrupts and says, “stern,” to which the man agrees.