Community trust through transparency and relationship building are at the forefront of the Wichita Police Department.
Chief Gordon Ramsay of the Wichita Police Department said the department is beginning to operate differently, with the desires of the community in mind.
But when a member from the community spoke out questioning what happens when someone has concerns with a police officer, such as an officer shining a light through a home when unwarranted, during Tuesday’s Wichita Police Department update, Ramsay said “it does take two to build relationships.”
“I don’t want people to fear the police or be scared of the police or feel they are being treated unfairly,” Ramsay said. “That’s why we do all this. People like you can make this better.”
To complete their end of the deal in building relationships, Ramsay said the department is taking more initiatives, from Bluetooth body cameras to racial profile training.
“One of the major ones,” Ramsay said, is the Citizen’s Review Board that the Wichita City Council was scheduled to review Tuesday. The board, which will cost around $20,000, would allow appointed community members to review complaints of misconduct against officers and make recommendations to police officers.
“I believe that will be another step in the right direction where citizens can come inside the police department and review our processes and complaints and make sure we are doing the best we can,” Ramsay said. “That is a good thing in my mind ... it will be a benefit to community relations.”
The board will not be able to investigate or issue subpoenas. That investigative model would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Ramsay said all Wichita police officers who work in the field have been trained and equipped with body cameras to assist in documenting police and community interactions, which have solved many disputes. However, sometimes officers forget to turn on their cameras.
To ensure important interactions are captured, the department is testing 12 new Bluetooth cameras that automatically turn on when a taser is removed from a holster, when emergency lights are turned on and when a shot gun is removed from the car. Technology does not yet allow for the camera to turn on when an officer’s gun is removed from the holster, Ramsay said.
Also in an attempt to improve community relations, Ramsay said all 850 staff members will have implicit bias training this month. The majority of police personnel have already been trained in mental health first aid.
The department is also trying to lessen use of force by adding less-lethal options, such as foam rounds. The less-lethal weapons have been used by Wichita police officers at least six times since last summer, mostly around suicidal individuals holding a weapon.
“We’re trying to be better partners with the community,” Ramsay said. “Here we are trying to make the police department part of the community.”