Wichita City Council hears racial profiling study on traffic citations

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – During a public forum at the Wichita City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dr. Walt Chappell and Shelia Officer, with the Racial Profiling Board, presented an update on profiling and traffic citations in the city.

Chappell presented the council members with an executive summary and data analysis of 137,283 citations issued by Wichita Police Department officers between 2016 and 2018. The analysis showed that black drivers were twice as likely to be stopped by WPD officers, and black drivers received more non-moving violation citations than white drivers. However, the overall analysis showed that the number of citations issued is down. There have been five studies done on stops and citations between 2000 and 2019.

“Why is this disproportionate enforcement of the laws taking place? Now that isn’t isolated to Wichita, Kansas as you now. This is a problem nationwide,” said Dr. Walt Chappell.

The Wichita Racial Profiling Advisory Board has talked to Police Chief Gordon Ramsay about the study and say they are pleased he is listening and looking at this independent analysis.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said the following.

I support the hard work done by WPD staff every day. I have no inclination racial profiling is an element involved in any of WPD policing strategies and if any conduct of racial profiling was to surface, it would be investigated and handled appropriately. Making accusations of racial profiling and creating a divide between police and the community without clear evidence is very unfortunate.

We appreciate and encourage outside reviews of our department to ensure transparency and that we are operating among best practices. However, disparities in traffic stops alone does not constitute bias and many additional factors have to be included. Therefore, WPD also wants to ensure accuracy in the data and analysis before drawing conclusions. WPD has reached out to the resident to further explain the discrepancies and inaccuracies, but the resident has not granted the meeting at this time.

After a final and accurate analysis of the data, WPD will seek a third-party review by asking Wichita State University Dr. Michael Birzer, a world-renowned expert in racial profiling, to review the data and provide input. The WPD will meet with Dr. Birzer after he has developed his conclusions.”

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 in Wichita on Tuesday released a statement in support of WPD officers.

The statement was sent by President Rob Schmiedler.

“FOP #5 looks forward to reviewing the traffic citation analysis that is to be conducted by the Wichita Police Department and Dr. Birzer of Wichita State University,” the statement says. “We remain open to what the results will show, taken in context, and remain confident that our members are conducting themselves ethically and honorably at all times while enforcing the traffic laws of the City of Wichita.”

KSN reached out to Dr. Birzer of Wichita State for comment, but he was not immediately available for comment.

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