WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay is asking Kansas lawmakers to take another look at the rules surrounding the release of body cam footage. This conversation comes on the heels of a Facebook post where the chief asked the public if body cam footage should be released.
This post came with a mix of responses. Some people argued that body camera footage, within a person’s home, should not be released, and others say it’s the right of the people to have access to what goes on in their community, even in its lowest moments.
The conversation on transparency has been ongoing when it comes to the police department and how forthcoming they are with information so for some. The discussion on limiting accessibility to body camera footage triggered a concern.
“We’re learning what is working across the country and what is not working,” said Chief Ramsay. “In a free and democratic society, we are paid for by the taxpayers, and I feel like there needs to be a high level of transparency. I think it’s critical for people to know that since I’ve arrived, we’ve cleared 107 citizen complaints by coming to the PD and reviewing the video, and after watching the video in those 107 cases, the people have chosen not to make a complaint.”
The chief says the statutes around releasing body cam footage to anyone at anytime is not working. In this new discussion about body cams, he’s asking the public to consider what it would be like for someone’s personal life to be on display, simply by putting in a request.
“We see people at some of the worst times of their lives,” he explained. “We go into their homes for burglary reports. All that’s captured on video; who should have access to that? Should your neighbors have access? Should an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend? What happens if video of you accused of a crime that was false?”
Legitimate scenarios to weigh but what some are more concerned with is police misconduct being hidden. Additionally, some have also questioned how this coincides with the Wichita Police Department’s mission to be transparent. These are concerns that Ramsey says he is aware of.
“The question and the debate is at what point should it be released? Should it be released before critical witnesses have been interviewed? Should it be released before prosecutors have a chance to present it to a jury? That’s where we’re at in this evolution of police body cameras, is trying to determine the proper time frame for releasing and what should be released.”
KSN met with Durell Gilmore, Sunflower Community Action group justice organizer, He says body cam footage should be released immediately. Adding that for him, transparency means being open to showing anyone at anytime, even in their worst moments.
“That gives me, the average citizen, the ability to interject where I see some wrong on the part of the department,” said Gilmore. “They talk about repairing the relationship with police and community, I would build a relationship. There hasn’t been one to repair.”
A relationship that Ramsay says he and his department is working to build.
“We’re going to continue to allow people, when they have complaints, to view the footage,” said Chief Ramsay. “I have concerns about opening up to where just anybody can come and ask for footage on a specific person.”