WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita’s former police chief disagrees with how the City of Wichita is handling the recent controversy involving a dozen police officers, but his concern is not just over that case. Gordon Ramsay sent a letter to the mayor and Wichita City Council members saying that they should look into what is going on at the top levels of City Hall.
The controversy that is getting the most attention is the dozen officers who are accused of sharing discriminatory images and text messages that made light of the use of force by officers. A committee that reviewed how the City handled the case found the discipline “was not appropriate given the seriousness of the offenses.”
The texting happened while Ramsay was still Wichita’s police chief. He left the position on March 1, citing personal reasons. He is now running for sheriff in St. Louis County in Minnesota. In his letter to the mayor and the council, he said, ” … there is more going on here than meets the eye.”
“The real purpose is to distract attention from the inappropriate interference of the Human Resources Director in the disciplinary system of the WPD and to deflect it onto the very people who brought forward significant ethical and operational concerns,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay has said that he told the city manager about the texting incident shortly after it was discovered. He also said he talked to the city manager about unethical involvement in police discipline cases many times.
In an April 21 press conference, City Manager Robert Layton was asked how much he knew about the text messages and the investigation before they became public.
“I can’t recreate a memory I don’t have. I don’t want to get back into that discussion about what was done, especially early in the investigation,” said Layton at the April press conference. “That’s why I committed to the community, to the mayor and council, that we would investigate this situation. We had the text messages. We know what happened, and what I asked the committee to do is take a look at the appropriateness of the follow-up actions that were taken by the police department and prepare recommendations on how we can move forward.”
In his letter, Ramsay said, “The City Manager appointment of the HR Director to the Committee charged with investigating how the texting case was handled was a flagrant conflict of interest.”
Ramsay said he witnessed past requests for information manipulated, information left out, and consultant reports changed to fit the requested narrative. He said some police employees are concerned about retaliation by City administration if they speak out. Ramsay said the employees have sought whistleblower protection.
“It is clear you are not aware of all the factors creating a troubled culture at the top levels of City Hall,” he said. “Many are afraid to speak up.”
Ramsay said he is willing to testify under oath. He wants an independent review that answers directly to the mayor and the council regarding:
- Every Police Department employee discipline case overturned or changed by the Human Resources Manager (or HR Department) going back 10 years, associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Every ethics complaint, corruption complaint or any similar complaint made against the HR Manager or HR Department, associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Every complaint, grievance, objection, or similar complaint made against or about the HR Manager or the HR department reference their involvement in police discipline and associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Police management requests for police contract negotiations in 2021 and which of those requests were included in the approved and current contract.
- Every change made to the police contract in the last 13 years and examine the operational impacts.
- Complaints of racial, age or sexual discrimination made by City employees to HR over the last 10 years, associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Who makes the policy decision to keep public employee discipline records closed contrary to national best practices.
KSN News reached out to the City for its response to Ramsay’s letter.
The City sent statements from Layton and HR Director Chris Bezruki:
I categorically reject the accusations made by former Chief Ramsay in his letter to the Mayor and Council. I look forward to the City’s independent, third-party review to comprehensively complete its work and residents can fully understand what happened so that the City can move forward from this painful incident.”Chris Bezruki, HR director
Wichita City Manager Robert Layton also released a statement:
I am deeply concerned by former Chief Ramsay’s allegations and his continued claims against individuals and departments that work for the City. If I understand him correctly, he suggests that the consultant’s report be expanded to include relationships between departments. I am not opposed to this at all. I understand that he also has concerns about the objectivity of the consultant’s work. This is only a concern if his allegations about information and consultant report manipulation are correct. They are not. We are all anxious to move on from individual claims to a thorough and fair report by the consultant team.Robert Layton, Wichita city manager
City Council Member Jeff Blubaugh, District 4, sent this statement:
In my experience in serving the City Council for almost a decade I have had multiple transparency issues between the City Manager and City Council as to issues at City Hall. I plan to dig deeper into these allegations upon my return and would support investigations and audits into several Internal Departments within the City so both the City Council and most importantly the public have a better understanding into how City Operations are facilitated.”Jeff Blubaugh, Wichita City Council District 4
KSN also spoke with Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple:
“None of these accusations are, frankly, sustainable unless you’re able to back it up with the type of research that we are going to be doing,” said Whipple. “We need to be more transparent while also arguing against a third-party study. That is going to be the most transparent tool we have to take a deep dive into our police department, and also into to other city offices.”
Council Member Brandon Johnson, District 1, sent this statement on Friday:
While out of town this week, I did finally have a chance to review the allegations made by our former Chief of Police, Gordon Ramsay as well as the subsequent interview by two of our current Deputy Chiefs regarding the culture within the administration and police department.
“While I find these allegations troubling, I believe the entirety of this situation from having a culture that would allow such disgusting text messages to be made, to the alleged interference from the local Fraternal Order of Police, to what is being alleged now.
“All of this is troubling to me and I know it is also troubling to you.
“As many know, I have been a big supporter of Chief Ramsay and was supportive of his work while he was in Wichita. I met Chief Ramsay before I was in office and worked with him and others on substantive changes to our department before and during my time in office.
“Rather than take any side without the totality of information, I am committed to working with my fellow Council Members to ensure that the departmental review is thorough, not exclusive to just one thing or area, and that these new items are included.
“We need to get to the bottom of this and ensure the truth is available for all that we serve.
“Even more than just the truth, also taking action to remedy the problems we have and to serve our community better.
“That said, we have work to do and I am committed to that work.”Brandon Johnson, Wichita City Council District 1