WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita Police Chief Joseph Sullivan talked about policies and techniques within the department Tuesday after a video of an altercation between two Wichita teens and off-duty police officers at Roller City circulated on social media.
The video shows officers wrestling with a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy, punches being thrown, and ends with an officer spraying pepper spray at the boy’s face.
Sullivan says the use of force policy has to be reasonable and commensurate with the threat that officers face, which is incident specific.
“Each incident is very different, and that’s why I haven’t made any general statements,” Sullivan said.
He says he is waiting to make any judgments until the Wichita Police Department (WPD) has collected all the evidence, including bodycam footage and videotapes.
“We know there is more video out there from cellphones, and we know there are more witnesses out there that we haven’t had a chance to interview,” said Sullivan. “So please, anyone who has information who can help us with the investigation, help us find our way to the truth. We implore you to come forward and assist us with this investigation.”
Sullivan says a video of the entire incident would enable him to make a more accurate assessment of the officer’s involved actions.
As for releasing bodycam footage to the public, Sullivan says he needs to coordinate with District Attorney Marc Bennett first on whether or not he will make a decision on criminal charges.
Sullivan did state that he thinks off-duty officers should wear bodycams but that he understands that takes money.
“I have the command staff currently preparing a proposal that I could present to the city manager and the city council as to what it would take,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan says the off-duty officer was on “secondary assignment.”
“When officers are on a paid secondary employment detail, they’re in a Wichita police uniform, and they are acting as fully commissioned Wichita police officers and Kansas state law enforcement officers,” said Sullivan. “So they do have all legitimate police powers when they are acting in that capacity.”
As of now, the involved officer has been placed on administrative assignment.
“I placed the officer in administrative position so that he will not come in contact with members of the public until the investigation is completed,” Sullivan said.
Community members have called for the police officer to be terminated.
The mother of the girl involved stated she was laughed at when she demanded her daughter be medically cleared before being taken to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC).
This is one policy Sullivan says he is especially looking at.
“That has become part of the investigation as well, and we will be reporting back to the public and the city council on the findings of that as well, and we’ll answer, I promise you this we’re going to answer those questions,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan says he has made a note about parental notification. This comes after the boy’s mom stated she found out about the altercation from other witnesses and not from the WPD.
Sullivan himself has not talked to either of the parents.
“The one parent, I know, has said at city council that the family was not speaking, so I certainly am going to respect that, but we certainly will. Detectives will attempt to reach out,” Sullivan said.
The investigation is ongoing.
“I want to make sure there is due process, and that’s exactly what we’re doing right now,” said Sullivan.
He says when he interviewed for this job, and he said he intended to hold officers accountable.
“I think that since I’ve been here, I’ve already demonstrated my willingness to do that,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan says since he has been in Wichita, there has not been one invitation from the community that he has said no to, his reasoning as to why he was not at the community news conference. He said he has plans to meet with the NAACP youth organization, has done an interview with a Spanish newspaper and plans to meet with a faith-based community.
KSN will provide more information as it becomes available.