WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Citizen’s Review Board (CRB) on Tuesday released a report with recommendations following an investigation into alleged racist text messages sent by several officers.
The report went on to say there needs to be better communication on the part of Wichita police saying the department didn’t go far enough when it came to disciplining the officers and added they should have been suspended or perhaps faced tougher punishments. The CRB said it is up to the department to re-establish trust in the community. The report questioned why the disciplinary process went from serious to a non-disciplinary resolution saying, “we became aware the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) may have intervened in the process. We do not the FOP is a proper decider of discipline.”
Hours before that meeting, the Wichita City Council approved changing the composition and procedures of the CRB.
The City formed the board to review the Wichita Police Department’s (WPD) racial and other biased-based policies and advise on policy development and city practices. Members also review discipline findings from the Professional Standards Bureau Investigations after the fact, upon the request of board members of the Chief of Police.
The board has 11 seats, and all of them are appointed by the city manager. The changes would give the mayor and city council authority to appoint seven members of a 13 member board, with the remaining six spots appointed by the city manager. Other changes include allowing a person who made the initial complaint to Professional Standards to be notified of the board’s review of the complaint, and the person will have the opportunity to attend the board’s meeting to provide information about the complaint. The CRB would also receive a discipline summary of the officer who is the subject of the complaint.
On Tuesday, Interim Wichita Police Chief Lem Moore released a statement saying, “The ultimate goal of being the Wichita Police Department Chief of Police is to provide justice and fairness to our citizens and balance in the workplace for WPD personnel. The Citizen Review Board was created to assist WPD in its mission, and they have proven to be effective in its efforts. My goal is to support the Mayor and Council Members in their efforts in holding WPD accountable for its actions. Ultimately we are all here to serve the great City of Wichita.”
Mayor Whipple confirmed that the city council instructed City Manager Robert Layton to expedite the disciplinary process for the officers allegedly involved. Whipple said they’re also instructing Layton to develop a plan to bring in an outside resource to help the city determine if there are “organizational culture issues with WPD.”
Moore told KSN the FBI did not find any criminal or civil rights violations from WPD officers. However, he said one officer admitted to sending one inappropriate meme about George Floyd.
“It would be hard to discipline me for receiving something, and I don’t respond back, or I can’t help what someone sends me, so those are things that people have to take into consideration of do you deplete an entire team of individuals because one person made a choice to send something that was inappropriate,” said Moore.
Moore said it’s ultimately up to Layton to determine any disciplinary action against the eight remaining WPD officers.
KSN also reached out to former Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay about the allegations, who said, “I notified Manager Layton about the texting incident shortly after we discovered it. I don’t know what to say beyond that.”