WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita police chief and a city councilman are reacting to the dozens of people who protested and spoke at last week’s city council meeting regarding police funding and concerns.
Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and city councilman Brandon Johnson want the community to know they hear their concerns loud and clear.
“We wanted to highlight and make sure that the public knew that we heard loud and clear the demands of the protesters and activists and the concerns that they had and we are taking real steps toward that,” said Johnson.
A record 52 people participated in public comment during last week’s city council budget meeting, while more attending in support of police officers or to encourage defunding of the police department.
Chief Ramsay said the solutions to these concerns starts with community policing.
“For me, that is at my heart and soul; the way we police, how this department is,” said Chief Ramsay. “The department has a long history of having really tremendous community policing programs, but how the social ills continue to fall upon police, it does leave us with less and less time to deal with community issues.”
Officials said the biggest concern for many last week included mental help and how the police department addresses those calls.
Chief Ramsay said police are working with WSU’s School of Social Work and the city’s grants office to find social workers to embed inside the police office to handle mental health cases and similar calls.
Councilman Johnson said they are also looking for solutions for people with suspended licenses, out of control court costs or prior convictions that prevent people from applying for jobs or housing.
The department is considering taking some officers from the motorcycle unit to use them in community policing roles, but Chief Ramsay said traffic enforcement will remain a priority.
“We have a significant amount of calls that really aren’t always, don’t always fall under the police purview,” said Chief Ramsay. “Mental health calls is probably one of those that is at the forefront.”
Officials want the community to know they’re listening.
“Anybody who has spoken out, spoken up, those who came to the council meeting or sent one of the hundreds of emails we received, we heard you,” said Johnson. “We definitely heard you. We are working towards a solution on that.”
Johnson said some of these plans take time to lay the ground work and said the city wants to do things right, not just do them quickly.
Johnson said it could be a few months before any of the ideas are set in stone.
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