Wichita has a crucial new line of inquiry for those seeking the post of police chief: Would you release the names of officers when they use deadly force in the field? If not, why not?
As The Eagle’s Tim Potter reported in a weekend article, it’s considered a “best practice” in Oklahoma City and a way “to show transparency” in Tulsa to release such officers’ names, usually within 24 hours of the event.
Yet nondisclosure has been a matter of routine for decades at the Wichita Police Department, apparently out of concerns about officer safety and privacy. Police chiefs have had the authority to release the names, but have chosen to keep them secret. Most recently, the city released an incident report on the Jan. 3 shooting by police of 23-year-old John Paul Quintero that was heavily redacted to the point of absurdity.
In such cases, the officers’ identities become the target of lawyers and the subject of rumors. City Hall’s handling of the Quintero shooting sparked a protest at City Hall last week.
With emotions high across the country about fatal encounters between citizens and police, the risk of retaliation against officers is real. But secrecy is breeding suspicion in Wichita, which makes it worth hoping a new chief will favor more transparency.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman