In crisis situations, law enforcement agencies cut across jurisdictions and through bureaucracy to safeguard the public. But they also need to communicate as seamlessly as possible before disaster strikes – or the shooting starts, as in the case of Cedric Ford.
The Eagle’s Amy Renee Leiker reported that Ford had contact with four law enforcement agencies in the 17 days before he killed three co-workers at Excel Industries in Hesston, wounded 14 others and was shot dead himself.
It turns out that any of the agencies – the Wichita Police Department, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, the Hesston Police Department and the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office – could have arrested and jailed Ford, who had an outstanding domestic violence warrant.
The warrant was issued after a misdemeanor criminal case was filed in Wichita Municipal Court on Feb. 8, and part of a Wichita Police Department database that can be consulted by other agencies.
But a Hesston officer enlisted by a Sedgwick County deputy to deliver a court summons to Ford on Feb. 12 in a protection from abuse case didn’t know about the Wichita arrest warrant. Nor was Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton aware of it when one of his deputies delivered a second set of Sedgwick County court restraining order paperwork to Ford on Feb. 25 – the incident that authorities think set off the rampage.
It was also troubling to learn from Leiker’s reporting that the protection order documents were delivered the second time mistakenly, in part because a fax to the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office was overlooked for 10 days during a deputy’s absence. The Sedgwick County District Court also acknowledged it should have routed the protection order paperwork to the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office at the outset.
Would more resources or staffing and better communication have put Ford behind bars and saved lives? Hard to say.
As Walton told The Eagle, Ford was “a very angry man” who reportedly planned to resist arrest.
But officers clearly were putting themselves at risk by serving Ford with court summons without knowing about the arrest warrant. The safety of Ford’s girlfriend, who reported his assault and petitioned for the restraining order, also was at stake.
To its credit, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office has made changes to avoid such paperwork errors in the future. And as spokesman Lt. Lin Dehning told The Eagle: “Cedric Ford’s actions on that day need to be placed squarely on the shoulders of Cedric Ford.”
But all area law enforcement agencies should review their procedures in light of this case, recognizing – and trying to mitigate – the danger of failing to connect the dots.