WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita City Manager Robert Layton says there is a problem with how the Wichita Police Department (WPD) stores evidence, and he wants it fixed. Layton and Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple held a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the issue.

Some city council members say they want to see the facility where evidence is housed.

“Absolutely. This needs our full attention. And I have asked for a tour for tomorrow (Tuesday) because I want to go over there and look at the facility,” said Wichita City Council Member Jeff Blubaugh. “I just learned late day Friday, and it was on my mind all this weekend, and my first impulse was to get out there and just see for myself what it looked like.”

News conference:

Layton said he has heard rumors of missing money and evidence, but the City is in the early stages of investigating those reports.

“We can’t verify at this point,” he said. “Lieutenant (Danny) Brown has said in his reports he is concerned that there could be missing evidence, and so that will be part of our audit, our review. At this point, I don’t have enough information to be able to verify that there is missing evidence.”

“At this point, we don’t have evidence that there is anything unlawful that’s taken place,” Whipple said. “We just know that we need to be utilizing this report to ensure that we’re managing the evidence properly.”

Layton says the problems include cash not being secured, older sexual assault kits not being kept at the correct temperature, and inadequate drug storage.

That has some questioning whether or not criminal cases could be compromised.

“The most important thing to me is the victims,” said council member Blubaugh. “You look at all the victims out there, and their cases could be in jeopardy because we weren’t minding the store.”

He says that former Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay expressed concern about the Wichita Property and Evidence Facility in 2020 and recommended an independent audit.

News conference Q&A:

Evidence Control Systems Inc. completed the audit in January 2021. Police made some recommendations for changes and for hiring two additional people for Property and Evidence. In August, the City Council approved the two new positions beginning in 2021.

Layton said he did not see the audit. He said in hindsight, he could have requested to see it or the summary. He said it was not until this month that his office saw the audit and the entirety of the recommendations.

The Documents

“Once my office learned about the specifics of this, we immediately started a review so that we could have a full understanding of the problems and begin working on possible solutions,” he said.

Layton says the audit’s executive summary has been shared with District Attorney Marc Bennett.

“I believe that the Police Department appropriately recognized the potential problems in the Property and Evidence Facility and took steps to better identify them,” he said. “However, it appears that there was an unacceptable delay in implementing solutions to the problems that were identified.”

Layton said the major problems that were identified include:

  • Property and Evidence (P&E) is woefully behind in the purging of evidence
  • Additional staffing is needed in P&E, and supervisors should not be rotated
  • Staff training is needed
  • Inventories should be conducted on a scheduled basis
  • A missing evidence protocol is required
  • Routine audits should be conducted
  • Dirt and debris in P&E could lead to deterioration of evidence
  • Environmental conditions in the homicide portion of the building are detrimental to biological evidence
  • Drug storage is inadequate
  • Not all evidence cash is adequately secured
  • The electronic access system needs to be upgraded, and visitor access logs should be used in the facility
  • The chain of custody cannot be maintained for large items that do not fit into the evidence lockers
  • Refrigerators need to be locked to protect the chain of custody
  • Bio evidence is comingled with other evidence and is not in a temperature­ controlled environment
  • Older sexual assault kits are not stored in a temperature-controlled room
  • Current barcoding practices make it difficult to retrieve evidence and conduct regular inventories
  • Items transferred to court or used for investigations are not properly recorded and tracked
  • A written policy is needed for the determination of ownership for found property
  • Inventory data should be reviewed regularly to determine the need for purging
  • Enhanced controls are needed for the destruction of guns and drugs

Timeline of events regarding Property & Evidence Department

The is what the City wants to be done and the timeframe:

Phase 1 – 60 to 90 days

  • Inventory the cash held in the safe room. This cash should be counted, verified, and then compared to recorded cases in the system. The cash will then be properly deposited at the bank per regulation.
  • Implement security check-in/out logs for all of Property & Evidence, including the safe room.
  • Implement new procedures for various processes for handling of all property and evidence based on regulations.
  • Begin processes to update the facility for additional security and safe storage for various types of Property & Evidence.
  • Begin a complete warehouse inventory and purge (this will be in process for all phases).
  • Complete verifications of tracking for guns, drugs, and jewelry.
  • Provide additional training to staff as deemed necessary.
  • Create a new area to separate out the new evidence coming in from the old evidence.
  • Revisions for policies that are not in compliance with regulations.

Phase 2 – 90-180 days

  • Continue the warehouse inventory and purge (this will be in process for all phases).
  • Revisions for policies that are not in compliance with regulations.
  • Update substation evidence lockers.
  • Continue with facility maintenance and building updates.
  • Provide additional training.

Phase 3 – 180-365 days

  • Continue the warehouse inventory and purge (this will be in process for all phases).
  • Final cleanup and review of implemented policies and procedures.
  • Final updates to facility and changes as deemed necessary.

Phase 4 – After Phases 1-3 are completed

  • Bring back the 3rd party auditor to review changes and determine if we are back up to code.
  • Continuous monitoring from Internal Auditor on the changes implemented.

Phase 5 – After Phase 4 completed

  • Complete the ANAB (ANSI National Accreditation Board) Accreditation of Property & Evidence

The City says incoming Interim Chief Troy Livingston and internal auditor Kristina Rose will be tasked with tackling the action items. Layton said that when the City selects a new police chief, that person should be given the power to “hit the ground running” to fix the issues that have been identified.

“Our city form of government does not allow the electeds to directly interfere with the day-to-day operations of different departments, and that includes the Wichita Police Department,” Whipple said

He will appoint a task force to look into WPD and what can be done to help with issues and transparency as problems arise. Whipple hopes to make the appointments during the next City Council meeting.

“At the end of the day, we need to take action now. Not later,” said Blubaugh.

Council member Blubaugh is asking city leaders and WPD staff if council members can get a look inside the facility.