WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A year-long assessment of the response to sexual and domestic violence by the Wichita Police Department, courts system and prosecutor’s office shows several gaps in the system.
The three groups are working to implement solutions immediately to better serve victims and survivors.
Wichita Police said they wanted to take a look at what they were already doing and try to make it better when it comes to sexual and domestic violence victims and their cases.
“It was great to see that we had staff members internally that were concerned they get it right and doing an internal look at themselves and finding out how they could do things better to makes sure we’re treating victims with dignity,” said James Clendenin, Wichita City Council member.
The Domestic and Sexual Violence Community Safety Assessment Report (DSVSR) was funded by a grant received by the Governor’s Grants Office.
The focus of the assessment was to discover problems, and several were found as a result.
For the Wichita Police Department, DSVSR found distinctive gaps in the department’s approach and ability to investigate domestic violence and sexual violence cases:
1. The WPD is understaffed in patrol and investigations for the domestic and sexual violence workload.
2. Responding officers do not consistently have access to all criminal protective and civil protection order information.
3. All law enforcement officers do not receive trauma-informed response training.
4. Investigators do not consistently work to connect victims with community-based advocacy support during investigations.
For the courts system, DSVSR identified one gap in the handling of domestic violence:
1. Ensuring the safety and comfort of the victim in public spaces (hallways and courtroom).
For the prosecutor’s office, DSVSR identified a lack of communication when handling domestic violence cases:
1. “There is a lack of consistent communication with victims in cases that are declined for prosecution.”
All groups have already developed solutions for their gaps.
“I hope this does send a very clear message to our victims that we, the Wichita Police Department and the city of Wichita do care about their safety and their well-being,” said Lt. Jason Stephens, Wichita Police Department.
The department will add three detectives to the sex crimes unit. Two of those will start next week. It will also provide personnel with access to the county’s record management system and provide training to access protective orders and trauma training. Brochures with services for victims will also be made to give to survivors on calls.
The City of Wichita Municipal Court will repurpose space on the third floor as a safe and comfortable waiting area for victims.
The City Prosecutor’s Victim Advocate will strengthen communication and inform victims when it declines prosecution in their case.
Overall, city leaders and advocates said this is a step in the right direction.
“We want victims to get relief,” said Clendenin. “We want them to feel like they’re being treated with dignity and respect and that they’re safe through the process.”
“I’m not saying that we’re done, but we’re working together,” said Kathy Williams, executive director of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center.
The Coordinated Community Response Team (CCR), formed in 2013 will help keep the groups accountable with their responses and solutions. The team includes Ascension Health, Via Christi Forensic Nursing, Catholic Charities Harbor House, KS Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, the Sedgwick County Emergency Communications, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, Wichita Police Department, City of Wichita Law Department, Stepstone, Wichita Area Sexual Asssault Center and the Wichita Family Crisis Center.