Crime & Courts

Police, sheriff agree to investigate each other’s officer-involved cases

File photo

The leaders of two local law enforcement agencies weren’t planning to tell the public for a while yet about their new plan to investigate each other’s cases when one of their own is the accused.

But the arrest of a Wichita police officer on Sunday after a woman accused him of raping her quickened the announcement.

“We were going to be releasing this later this month, but this kind of sped that along,” Wichita police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Monday as he stood with Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter at Wichita City Hall after disclosing details about the allegations lodged against Officer Marlon T. Woolcock, 31.

From now on, Ramsay said, any time a Wichita police officer is accused of criminal conduct, the sheriff’s office will handle the investigation instead of the police department.

Likewise, if a commissioned sheriff’s deputy is accused of a crime, the police department will investigate.

The collaboration “is intended to alleviate any conflicts and conflicts of interest, concerns and really bring more credibility to the investigative process,” Ramsay said. In the past, each agency would investigate allegations of misconduct against its own employees.

I believe it will be a tremendous asset for us as we move forward.

Wichita police Chief Gordon Ramsay

“I believe it will be a tremendous asset for us as we move forward, a good practice as our profession evolves and continues to improve,” Ramsay said.

Easter said Ramsay approached him and proposed the partnership about two months ago. He said they had had discussions about crimes committed by law enforcement officers and how to lend more credibility and transparency to the investigations.

The collaboration was the solution. Ramsay said it’s the first of its kind that he knows of that involves a major city and a sheriff’s agency.

“It’s not that both departments can’t do it on their own,” Easter said. “But sometimes it is the public perception” that’s concerning.

It’s not that both departments can’t do it on their own. But sometimes it is the public perception.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter

Woolcock’s case will be the first investigated under the new partnership. He was jailed late Sunday night after a 31-year-old woman he was acquainted with went to a Wichita hospital and told staff members she had been raped in the 1300 block of North Ohio.

The police department turned over the case to the sheriff’s office when they learned Woolcock was the suspect. He has since been placed on administrative leave, Easter said.

The exception to the agreement will be the investigation of criminal allegations against jail deputies. Those will still be handled by the sheriff’s office, Easter said, to avoid inundating the police department with complaints that turn out to be false or don’t rise to a criminal level, which is often the case at the jail.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker