WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Sedgwick County Community Task Force to Review Youth Corrections Systems Standards is calling for several changes to the Wichita Police Department (WPD) and the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC).
“There are gaps and inconsistencies that are happening. Right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, and at the end of the day, our young people are suffering because of it,” said Marquetta Atkins, one of the task force members and executive director of Progeny.
Not only are members calling for more training for officers, but also for body cameras and surveillance systems to be on and recording at all times.
During the March 7, 2022, meeting, Jodi Tronsgard testified that officers from the Wichita Police Department changed some of the answers on Cedric Lofton’s JIAC intake form regarding his physical state.
“What I learned after the intake was that the officer had presented this form and [it] initially said ‘yes,’ that there were signs of acute illness that appear to need immediate medical care, [and] ‘yes’ there were signs of intoxication significant impairment in functioning,” said Tronsgard. “He was informed that if it was a ‘yes’ to these questions, you’re going to have to leave and take the youth for a medical or mental health release, and then hearing that, he goes and responds ‘no’ to these questions.”
“There’s a space of time when the cameras and the sound was turned off, and we didn’t know what was going on, and I’m thinking that’s when that conversation was being had, so we were not told whether he conferred or spoke with people who are more superior than him being instructed to change or if he just did it of his own vocation, we don’t know, that’s a mystery,” said Atkins. “But whether he spoke to somebody and they told him to, or he decided himself, there has to be some accountability whoever made that decision whether it was him or the people in the room they need to be held accountable for that.”
At last week’s meeting, the task force once again brought up this information and raised questions about mental health training for officers, the timeline and accuracy of a mental health evaluation, and whether or not officers took enough time with Lofton’s case.
On Monday, the Wichita Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President David Inkelaar released a statement about a recent report from the Wichita Eagle and the Cedric Lofton investigation:
As the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, which represents more than 650 hardworking Officers of the Wichita Police Department, we will no longer sit in silence as Department heads of multiple organizations try to move the blame for their poor leadership and decision making to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5.
The Wichita Eagle’s article titled, “Fatal Decision,” paints a one-sided, false narrative that the union intervened during the Cedric Lofton case. This is simply not true. The Cedric Lofton investigation is a criminal matter in which the union does not get involved. However, as part of being a member of the union, our members have access to attorney representation, through a National legal defense plan. The officers’ attorneys are their own and take no guidance from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5.
District Attorney Marc Bennett was quoted in The Wichita Eagle article saying, “I don’t believe they were allowed to be re-interviewed,” Bennett said in a phone interview, Meaning, at that point, FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) had gotten them lawyers and that was the end of that.”
If DA Bennett was accurately quoted, we would hope he would only speak when he has all the facts and be forthright in presenting those facts. All the employees of the Wichita Police Department involved in the incident fully cooperated. All were represented by attorneys from the beginning and voluntarily went and spoke to the KBI [Kansas Bureau of Investigaion] during the investigation. At no time were the employees ever re-contacted by the KBI or the District Attorney’s office and asked to come back in for a follow-up interview. At no time did any of the employees refuse to fully cooperate with the investigation. A major premise of the legal system is that there is representation on both sides to assist with searching for the truth. We also hope that District Attorney Marc Bennett understands that all persons involved in criminal investigations, have the Constitutional right to legal representation.
We are saddened by the events that led to the loss of Cedric Lofton. Like others, we encourage a proper investigation to help prevent any other incidents like this from ever occurring again.Wichita Fraternal Order of Police President, David Inkelaar
KSN reached out to Inkelaar for an on-camera interview Monday, but he told us he was not available. KSN also reached out to Bennett for a response, who said, “the information I was provided was that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation arranged with counsel for the various WPD officers for a single interview to be conducted with each of the officers. Those interviews then took place between the 30th of September and the 19th of October of 2021. With respect to the KBI Agent, I expressed my concerns to his supervisor after our initial meeting and later that day was informed he had been removed from the case.”
KSN confirmed with KBI that an agent on the Lofton case was removed “due to concerns about performance and case progress. The change in assignment was not related to the form.”
Wichita Police Interim Chief Lem Moore also released a statement:
In light of recent allegations that have surfaced in the Wichita Eagle regarding our officers handling of the Cedric Lofton Incident, I have ordered that our professional standards bureau conduct a full investigation into the matter. The information first came to my attention in recent discussions involving the Community Task Force, but I have no evidence to substantiate the claims. As this is an ongoing internal investigation, I cannot comment on specifics — but I want to reassure the public that my goal remains to provide transparency and accountability and build trust with the community.Wichita Police Interim Chief Lem Moore