Wichita police issue statement on alleged cover-up
An off-duty Wichita police officer is suspected of drinking and driving and sideswiping another car and then driving off despite shouts from the other driver to pull over, records say.
The department covered up the incident, a detective who worked in internal affairs at the time has said.
The department changed a police report to list the driver as unknown. That happened after the officer had already identified herself as the driver, police records show.
Now, the FBI is investigating the Police Department’s internal investigation of the officer – Tiffany Dahlquist – a private investigator said.
Her attorney, Jonathan McConnell, denied that she was involved in any accident or is the target of any criminal investigation.
“It appears that several individuals have a personal vendetta against the Wichita Police Department, and it appears that you have a lot of bad facts,” McConnell said.
“In my heart I do not believe that Tiffany was involved in an accident.”
The federal investigation resulted in subpoenas being delivered by FBI agents to Wichita police supervisors last month, said the private investigator, Colin Gallagher, based on information provided to him by law enforcement personnel.
It is not clear how the FBI investigation began.
Some concerns within the department are laid out in a deposition given in May by Detective Lance Oldridge in an unrelated lawsuit against the city over a police shooting.
Oldridge testified in the deposition that his supervisors covered up misconduct by an off-duty officer suspected of driving drunk in a hit-and-run accident.
The testimony didn’t identify Dahlquist by name, but the circumstances described by Oldridge match the Sept. 11, 2016, incident for which Dahlquist was investigated.
“I was assigned to an investigation … as an Internal Affairs investigative police officer, and I felt there was misconduct being covered up,” Oldridge said in the deposition.
Oldridge also testified that his supervisor was “repeatedly throwing up roadblocks to me accomplishing what I believe my job was to do.”
Oldridge would not comment when contacted by The Eagle. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said she can’t confirm or deny an investigation.
Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said: “I can’t confirm the existence of an outside agency’s investigation.” He also said the city can’t comment on personnel matters.
“We are going to continue to work tirelessly to improve the trust of our community.”
The issues surrounding the police and federal investigations raise questions about whether the Police Department treats its officers differently than the public. It is a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident where there is property damage.
Wichita Municipal Court does not show any record of charges or tickets connected to the hit- and-run case.
Dahlquist was terminated on Feb. 13, 2017, and reinstated four days later, according to Officer Charley Davidson, the Police Department spokesman. She is still employed by the department and working out of Patrol North, he said.
Police documents, the accident reports and records obtained from Sedgwick County Emergency Communications give an account of the Sept. 11, 2016, hit-and-run collision. Dahlquist was suspected of sideswiping a car driven by a 17-year-old Wichita girl, who called 911 to report it.
According to records, the girl was in a GMC Envoy headed south in the 1300 block of North Maize Road shortly before 6 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2016, when another driver crossed into her lane near Zip’s Car Wash.
The girl was driving in the left lane of southbound Maize Road when the gray Chevy Equinox “merged into her lane of traffic causing her to swerve over the double yellow line,” she later told an officer who responded to her 911 call, according to reports.
The Equinox hit the Envoy despite the girl’s evasive move. The girl later told an officer that, after the collision, she rolled down her window and honked her horn to get the woman’s attention.
The woman “rolled down her window partially and glanced over and continued to drive,” according to the officer’s narrative of the events.
When the woman didn’t stop, the girl yelled at her: “Are you going to pull over?”
The girl told a 911 dispatcher that the woman said “make me” and sped off, documents from Sedgwick County Emergency Communications say.
The girl followed the woman south until she was near Maple, when the dispatcher told her to stop and wait for an officer to arrive. She gave the dispatcher the tag number of the Equinox, which officers used to identify Dahlquist as its owner.
The girl described the woman who hit her as white, in her mid-20s to early 30s, blonde with a smaller build and about 5 feet 5 inches tall. The woman, the girl told authorities, was wearing sunglasses, and the Equinox had a skull sticker decal on its left rear window.
The Eagle is not identifying the girl because she is a minor.
Her father, who owns the Envoy, turned down The Eagle’s request for an interview. But he did say he was told by at least one police detective, whose name he said he didn’t recall, at least a day after the collision that a police officer was driving the Equinox.
Asked to share specifics of his conversation with the detective or detectives, the girl’s father shook his head and said “we are pro-police.”
The girl’s father said he did not file a claim with his insurance company after the collision because the damage to his vehicle was less than $500, and his daughter wasn’t hurt.
The motor vehicle accident report says the collision left the Envoy with minor damage to its right passenger side mirror and a minor dent on the right passenger door.
The officer who filled out the narrative section of the Wichita Police Department Motor Vehicle Accident Report blamed the collision on “inattentive driving and hit and run” by the woman driving the Equinox.
One typed message sent between officers that night said “that comes back to dahlquist!!!” according to documents from Sedgwick County Emergency Communications.
A police sergeant who was on the scene that night, according to the report, told a dispatcher to send two officers to Dahlquist’s address and to have an officer call him before talking to Dahlquist. The head of the Patrol West Bureau was also notified that night.
Officers who went to Dahlquist’s address that night didn’t see her, the accident report says.
Dahlquist showed up at the Patrol West Bureau the following morning to fill out a motor vehicle accident report after she “was informed I hit a vehicle,” the document says.
It does not say who told her about the crash.
Dahlquist fills out report
Dalquist arrived at Patrol West shortly after 9 a.m. the day after the collision to fill out a Motor Vehicle Accident Report. She wrote that “I was informed I hit a vehicle” and there was no damage to her vehicle.
She indicated that she was both the driver and the owner of the Equinox involved in the collision. She also marked boxes on the form indicating that she wasn’t hurt and was wearing her seat belt and corrective lenses at the time the accident occurred. She signed the form.
She gave no further written version of events on the report even though it also asked for a detailed accident description including direction of travel and speed.
The head of the police department’s Patrol West Bureau, Capt. Wanda Parker-Givens, signed the report the same day Dahlquist filled it out.
The box on the report saying “no evidence of impairment” was checked as was the one that said “no test given.”
The report, like other hit-and-run reports, was forwarded to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Four days later, KDOT and police records show, the accident report was amended to list the driver of Dahlquist’s Chevy Equinox as an unknown woman.
The publicly available reports gave no explanation for why Dahlquist’s name was removed.
It said only that “Per Det. Amy amended 9/15/16” to list the driver as unknown.
There is a Detective Mike Amy assigned to the Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau, which investigates complaints and possible misconduct or policy violations involving staff members. Amy could not be reached for comment.
It’s unclear who decided to remove Dahlquist’s name from the driver information portion of the report.
Detective Oldridge testimony
The sworn testimony by Detective Oldridge came in May during a deposition in a lawsuit against the city over a Wichita police officer’s fatal shooting of Icarus Randolph on July 4, 2015.
A transcript of the deposition was filed in Sedgwick County District Court this month as part of the lawsuit.
Oldridge, a detective for about 19 years, was assigned to investigate the Randolph shooting as well as the hit and run when he worked as an investigator in the Professional Standards Bureau.
The unit reports to the police chief, who has final say on internal investigations, including whether they should be stopped, Oldridge testified.
Regarding the alleged hit and run, he said: “I was assigned to an investigation … as an Internal Affairs investigative police officer, and I felt there was misconduct being covered up. And I was voicing my displeasure with that.”
Asked what conduct was being covered up, Oldridge responded: “An officer was being investigated for off-duty committing a hit and run and most likely being drunk while she did it.”
Along with the internal affairs investigation he was assigned to do, there would have been a criminal investigation, he said.
He had been with the professional standards unit for three and a half years, he testified.
“And I tried to do my job and my supervisor repeatedly throwing up road blocks to me accomplishing what I believe my job was to do,” Oldridge testified.
Oldridge described his role on the professional standards unit as “trying to maintain the order and discipline of the Wichita Police Department.” Part of that is treating everyone “fairly and objectively” and without favoritism, he said.
He was upset over how the department was handling the investigation of the officer. He said he was voicing his displeasure with the situation but got disciplined for “cursing at a supervisor” – Lt. Paul Duff. Duff was one of his supervisors in the professional standards unit.
“I was calling a situation and I’ll just flat out tell you and I said I’m tired of this (expletive) (expletive), this is (expletive) that’s going on. That’s not cursing at him, that’s describing a situation,” Oldridge testified.
Management disagreed with him, he said.
His punishment was a day off without pay, but he also believed that he was transferred out of professional standards as part of the discipline, he testified.
He “filed a complaint against several people,” with the city’s human resources and the city manager.
He testified that he had been told that the city manager hired an outside law firm to review his complaint.
Police credibility issue
If the credibility of a police officer is questioned, it can jeopardize the cases he or she has worked on.
Case law requires prosecutors to disclose information that might help the defense or might be used to challenge the credibility of witnesses during a trial. That disclosure could include past conduct by law enforcement officers.
Gallagher, the private investigator, is a former Wichita police sergeant. He said he resigned from the department under duress in 2012. He said he was wrongly accused of lying.
He is now a private investigator working with defense attorney Mark Schoenhofer in an unrelated case of alleged human trafficking.
Part of Gallagher’s job is to determine whether witnesses against the defendant, including the officers, have credibility issues.
Gallagher said he found out that Dahlquist was one of the first officers to respond to the human trafficking case. The man is charged with 18 counts, including aggravated human trafficking, kidnapping and aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
Schoenhofer, the attorney, raised the issue of the department’s credibility in a motion filed in late September, writing “Defendant is aware of Brady discovery pertaining to one of the officers involved in the investigation of this case, which is currently the subject of an FBI investigation.”
Under the Supreme Court’s Brady decision, prosecutors are required to turn over evidence that might be beneficial to the defense.