If you start with the premise that nobody’s perfect, then there’s room for improvement in the Wichita Police Department. However, If you start with a record of 48 shooting deaths of Wichita citizens at the hand of Wichita police officers during the past four decades, 17 of which were in the last decade (2010 – 2019) alone, there is definitely room for improvement in the Wichita Police Department.
Of those killed in the last decade, five were Black, 11 were White and one was Hispanic.
Put It On Your Calendar: COMMUNITY MEETING ON TRANSFORMING WICHITA POLICE & COURTS - Thurs., June 18, 6:30 p.m. - Urban Prep Academy Gym, 2821 E 24th St., Wichita
Walt Chappell, vice-chair of the Wichita Racial Profiling Advisory Board, also includes 20 recent excessive use-of-force court cases, on his record of WPD shortcomings, plus data he’s meticulously compiled that he says shows a record of racial profiling by the force.
When you talk to Chappell, it’s clear, he believes there’s a great need for improvement with WPD. While he leans towards supportive of Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, like most departments, Chappell says WPD has its bad seeds.
He points to Lt Christian Cory, Justin Henry, and the infamous Bob “Dirty Harry” Bachman, as three of the bad seeds. According to Chappell, 23 complaints have been filed against Cory, who serves as a Lt. in the department’s Domestic Violence unit.
Chappell, who has been working to address racial profiling and bad policing as a member of the Racial Profiling Board since 1998, is encouraged by the growing international momentum to address police violence. He’s fought a long hard battle, but hasn’t seen much change. Now, he’s a little more optimistic that there’s enough support to help get those bad seeds, and others, out of the department.
“Hopefully we now have enough voices and people in Wichita demanding change to see meaningful results,” said Chappell.
Chappell and members of the Racial Profiling Board want to help turn the protesters' general demands for justice into “specific recommendations to transform the police department and courts.” They’ve scheduled a community-wide meeting, to hear ideas for change, on Thurs., June 18 in the Urban Prep Academy gym, 2821 E. 24th St. in Northeast Wichita.
The top reform strategies developed at this meeting will be presented to the city council, city manager, and county commissioners.
Chappell says, the board really wants to hear from the community. The meeting isn’t about what the board wants, but what the community wants, says Chappell.
However, if you ask him, Chappell has a few -- possibly and understatement -- issues with the Wichita legal system and processes that really annoy him. One of them is how the City never admits they’re wrong.
“They defend every officer,” said Chappell. “Instead of mediating a case, they always choose to litigate.”
According to Chappell, the city hires an attorney, digs their heels in and ties cases of misconduct or wrongful death in the courts for years.
As an example, Chappell points to the case of Icarus Randolph, a 26-year-old, African-American, man who was killed by police on July 4, 2014. Randolph, a military veteran, suffered from PTSD. He was having a mental crisis and his family called 9-1-1- hoping to get mental health support, but WPD arrived. Within minutes of their arrival, Randolph was dead from an officer’s bullet. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Six years later, the case is still making its way through the courts.
“It’s almost impossible anymore to find an attorney in Wichita who will take on one of these cases,” said Chappell. “Besides bankrupting the attorney and exhausting the family, it’s costing us, the citizens, a lot of money.”
What’s on your list for transformative change you would like to see within the Wichita justice system?