Crime & Courts

Wichita police reviewing on-duty officer's decision to turn home security camera away

The Wichita Police Department says it's reviewing the actions of an on-duty officer who turned a home surveillance camera away from him and a fellow officer overnight Sunday.

The officer moved the camera, which was hanging in a corner on the front porch of the home on a swivel mount, because he was concerned for his and his partner's safety, police spokesman Officer Charley Davidson said, fielding questions about the incident Tuesday morning.

"When an officer can articulate safety concerns, I am supportive of their decision," Wichita police Chief Gordon Ramsay said in a prepared, written statement that addressed a Facebook post and surveillance video.

"With rapidly changing technology and the increasing number of home security cameras, the WPD continually reviews practices to ensure they are in line with the expectations of the community and officer safety."

The video clip showing the officer moving the camera was posted on Facebook Monday morning. It shows two uniformed Wichita police officers shining flashlights outside of the home before they step onto the porch. The officers look directly at the camera and then one officer reaches up and covers the lens with his hand. The video ends after that.

The clip, which was posted on the Facebook page of a person named Kameron Prouse, had already been viewed more than 15,000 times by Tuesday afternoon. He did not return a Facebook message from an Eagle reporter on Tuesday.

The poster accuses authorities of damaging his property "for no apparent reason" and questions why the officer moved a camera he says was installed on his porch for "security purposes."

"My cameras are up for security purposes, how am i supposed to feel secure when the officer in the video disables it?" the poster wrote.

On Tuesday, Davidson gave to reporters copies of a police report that describes in a detailed, written narrative what the officer who turned the camera says happened that night. It's unusual for the Wichita Police Department to include such narratives with police reports requested by the news media.

Davidson said that the officers went to the home with the surveillance camera, in the 1400 block of South Market, to check the welfare of a woman who may have been the subject of domestic violence earlier in the night at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. A 41-year-old man connected to the South Market address had been seen at the hospital on Sunday and hospital staff cut off his house arrest ankle monitoring device during the visit, Davidson said.

Kameron Prouse, who posted the video clip on Facebook, and the 41-year-old man at the hospital are not the same person.

While at the hospital, nurses heard and saw the man shouting at and hovering over his girlfriend and "heard a loud thump" coming from the room they were in, according to the police narrative written by the officer who turned the camera. When the man and his girlfriend went to leave a short time later, a nurse mouthed "Are you ok?" to the girlfriend.

"She mouthed back 'No' but left anyways," the officer's narrative says the nurses reported.

Hospital staff called 911 to report a possible domestic violence situation and that they had cut off the man's ankle device.

Davidson said the man and his girlfriend had already left by the time officers arrived at the hospital at around 11 p.m. Sunday.

The officers researched the man's criminal history before going to the South Market address and saw "several assault, battery, and aggravated assault, and battery cases," the officer's narrative says.

When the officers arrived at the house, they walked by cars in the driveway and checked outside of the home then went onto the porch to knock on the door.

One officer saw the surveillance camera hanging in the corner and turned it so they would be out of its view, Davidson and the officer's narrative on the police report said.

They left when no one answered the door.

Davidson said Tuesday the department is conducting an internal review of the officer's decision to move the camera. The officers' body-worn cameras recorded their visit to the house and it will be part of the internal review, he said.

Davidson said officers are trained to "remain vigilant" when dealing with reports involving possible domestic violence and violent offenders.

"This was a known violent offender, somebody that officers had been familiar with in the past," he said of the 41-year-old man.

"We do educate and we do train our officers to be safe on all calls," Davidson said. "And officers, in our policy, we can do what we need to do to stay safe."

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