At the “No Ferguson Here” community forum at East High School on Aug. 28, Wichita residents expressed their concerns about the Wichita Police Department’s relationship with the broader community. To discuss those concerns at greater length, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams, Wichita City Manager Robert Layton and interim Wichita Police Chief Nelson Mosley met with pastors Junius Dotson and Kevass Harding, Kansas African American Museum executive director Mark McCormick, and Wichita NAACP president Kenya Cox. The conversation centered on the four main themes from the community forum: the implementation of body cameras, crisis-intervention training, the creation of an independent review board and community policing strategies.
This status report outlines ongoing efforts to address these concerns and to build the public’s trust in the Police Department’s work.
Wichita will be one of the first cities of its size to require all of its officers to wear body cameras. We have identified potential funding sources, researched vendors to supply the 450 cameras that would be needed, estimated the cost of hiring support clerks to manage the new technology and resulting data, and begun to develop comprehensive policies to regulate the use of cameras in the field.
Our timeline for obtaining and implementing the body cameras is based on realistic yet favorable circumstances, so we appreciate your patience and continued support as we work through this process and any challenges that might arise. One such challenge could be the ability of the vendor to supply all 450 body cameras in a single shipment. Due to a higher demand for law enforcement-grade body cameras across the country, the selected vendor might not have all the needed cameras in stock at the outset and would need additional time to produce the full order, either in one or multiple shipments. If this is the case, the start of our training and implementation phases could be delayed.
Despite some reports to the contrary, the Fraternal Order of Police supports the implementation of body cameras for officers in the field to protect both the officers and the public from inappropriate conduct.
Since 2012, all police recruits have received a four-hour crisis-intervention training to learn how to safely interact with residents who might suffer from mental illness or other mental health concerns. Recruits also receive training in crisis management, behavior management, and safe interactions with special populations, veterans and people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Once recruits graduate from police academy, they become eligible to attend more comprehensive crisis-intervention training courses. Each year, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office hosts a 40-hour basic course and an eight-hour advanced training course with 15 spots reserved for the Wichita Police Department.
Certification is granted upon completion of the basic course. Currently, 89 officers and supervisors are trained and certified in crisis intervention. The goal is to train all officers in crisis intervention. The department also will continue to divert residents to mental health agencies, when appropriate.
Independent review board
The department understands the residents’ desire to trust the system that reviews officer-involved shootings and allegations of misconduct. To address this concern, city and Wichita State University staff members are reviewing a number of replacement options for the current review board. The result will be a new entity that is unique to and the best fit for our city.
Most of our officers are trained in community policing, which promotes the development of proactive and trusting partnerships with residents in the hope of effectively and creatively solving crime and other public safety concerns. Moving forward, we plan to train every officer in community policing, as well as fair and impartial policing to combat racial profiling concerns. We want community policing to touch every aspect of our operations and interactions with the public.
It should be noted that a comprehensive review of the department is underway. This assessment will identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement; create a blueprint for the department’s future; and establish criteria for selecting a new police chief. It will focus on current operational policies and procedures, the organizational structure, community and employee relations, safety and training programs, community policing, use of technology, communication and engagement activities, and interagency relations. It is expected to be completed by Dec. 31.
In addition to this status report, we would like to continue this discussion with another public meeting – the date of which has not yet been set. We would like to invite all Wichita residents to attend that meeting and share their ideas for improving the community-police relationship and moving our city forward.
Nelson Mosley is Wichita’s interim police chief. Kevass Harding is pastor of Dellrose United Methodist Church.