Four months ago, Norman Williams retired after 14 years as Wichita police chief. He said he was tired.
Three weeks after his retirement, The Eagle reported that he was on a list of police personnel who could have credibility issues if they were called to testify in criminal cases. It is known as the Brady-Giglio list, named after court cases. The Eagle deduced, through a series of open-records requests, that Williams appeared to be on the list for filing a false report, a violation that results in a firing under current departmental policy. After the article appeared, Williams stayed silent – until this week.
The 61-year-old former police chief called an Eagle reporter and said he wanted to disclose why he was on the list.
He was doing so, he said, because a mistake he made 33 years ago when he was a young officer should not define his 39-year career in law enforcement.
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For him, publicity about his being on the list was “frustrating,” “demoralizing” and “disheartening,” Williams said. “Because it seemed like that story wanted to define my career,” he said. “That’s one incident out of those 39 years.”
What put him on the list, Williams said in an hour-long interview, was “I did not complete my officer’s daily activity report completely and accurately.” It was a one-page sheet that had to be filled out on both sides. He also did not note his tickets, arrests and cases in a separate lieutenant’s log book, he said. Instead of documenting his work daily, he waited until the end of the month to log it, he said. “I’d been warned about it before.”
After an internal investigation around November of 1981, he received a two-day suspension without pay, Williams said. He was about 28 at the time.
“You live and learn,” he said. “I made a mistake, and I made a mistake in the early part of my career.” It motivated him, he said. “I elevated my work ethics.”
His violation in 1981 remained in his personnel file as he rose all the way to police chief of the state’s largest police department, Williams said.
The Brady-Giglio list derives from case law requiring prosecutors to disclose certain 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 who are involved in an investigation that goes to trial. Among the conduct that has to be disclosed are criminal convictions and official findings of dishonesty.
As for him, Williams said, over the years, “I don’t ever remember it being an issue where somebody said you couldn’t testify.” To his knowledge, defense lawyers have never challenged his credibility.
Williams said he began the process of his retirement in 2012 with a series of meetings with city pension staff. The department had a number of top positions, including captains and deputy chiefs, that he needed to fill before he retired, he said.
He also was dealing with personal issues that began with the death of his mother, he said. All signs were telling him, “You need to move on,” he said.
Williams announced his retirement on Aug. 14. “Very few people knew when I was leaving other than me,” he said.
At the time of his retirement announcement, Deputy Police Chief Nelson Mosley praised Williams for his leadership a decade ago when the department solved the BTK serial-killer homicides and during a racketeering investigation targeting the Neighborhood Crips gang. During Williams’ tenure, the department received national recognition for investigative and community policing work. Williams twice suffered wounds in the line of duty, in 1977 and 1980, and three bullets remain lodged in his body.
He was not forced out, he said.
Richard LaMunyon, who was police chief when Williams got into trouble in 1981, said Tuesday he doesn’t remember Williams’ violation. LaMunyon, now the Maize city administrator, was Wichita police chief from 1976 to 1989.
“I remember going to the hospital twice when he was shot,” LaMunyon said of Williams. He said the two are friends.
Williams’ violation would have been a fairly minor infraction in 1981, LaMunyon said. “You’re not talking about a violation of the law or an abuse-type thing,” LaMunyon said. “He didn’t do the paperwork right.
“Look at all the great, wonderful things he did for the department,” LaMunyon said. “This was nothing more than a learning experience 30 years ago. … It should be forgotten.”
When it became public that Williams was on the list, Williams “was devastated by it,” LaMunyon said.
“He was literally crushed.
“It’s just disgusting that it has to be discussed.”
Williams, who has been the subject of speculation that he might run for mayor, declined to say what his next step might be. He noted that the filing deadline for mayor is Jan. 27.
“Right now, I’m exploring different future options, whether political, private, government. … There’s no one right now.”
He said he still volunteers with civic organizations. As chief, he said, “I appreciated the ability to serve our community and the department — an opportunity of a lifetime to make a difference. That’s what I want to continue to do, is make a difference.”
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.