After getting input from community members in June about local police policies and reforms, the City of Wichita has released a report that reviews and responds to many (though not all) concerns voiced by the public at a Racial Profiling Advisory Board meeting.
Most prominently, the report says that demands to defund the WPD will not be met because it would hurt community safety.
“We agree that a comprehensive model for community public safety is needed,” the City of Wichita says in the report.
“A new public safety model should be considered that emphasizes police response to emergency situations and the improvement of community policing,” the report said. “Adequate staffing is needed to embed police officers in the community to develop trusted relationships and to proactively address the causes of violent crime in our neighborhoods. We must also adequately fund the wraparound services that treat the underlying social ills impacting our community. These social service programs should address mental health, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, employment and housing issues.”
The City of Wichita agrees on the following points:
Create a Safe Environment for Police Officers to Report Misconduct by Fellow Officers – The city says policies are already in place and officers are trained on the “Duty to Intervene.” “Allegations of improper police conduct can be reported by civilians or WPD staff by phone, in writing, online or by visiting the Professional Standards Office at City Hall. In 2019, WPD investigated 214 external professional standard complaints and 145 internal professional standards complaints,” the report said.
Establish a Duty to Intervene Policy – “WPD is revising its use-of-force policy to include a specific direction on duty to intervene. Duty to intervene has also been incorporated into WPD training for both new and veteran officers for several years,” the report said.
Ban Choke Holds, Knee Holds and Strangle Holds: “WPD specifically prohibits and trains against the use of these techniques including knee holds and strangleholds, unless deadly force is justified and as an absolute last resort to prevent death or great bodily harm to the officer or another person,” the report said.
Implement a De-escalation Policy: “In 2016, WPD began focusing on de-escalation techniques to resolve situations without the use of force by utilizing time, distance and communication,” the report said. WPD is also now incorporating social workers and mental health workers to assist when possible, the report said.
Adopt a Policy of Community Policing: WPD has had a community policing program since 1994, and has won awards for it, the report said.
Test All Outstanding Rape Kits: Efforts to address a backlog of 1,669 untested kits began in 2017 and has been completed. To date, all WPD test kits have been submitted for testing, and policies and procedures have been put into place to ensure no backlog occurs again, the report said.
Increase Transparency Related to Police Officer Discipline and the Use of Force: “The Wichita Citizen’s Review Board (CRB) was created in 2017 … to review police misconduct cases. The CRB board meets regularly and meetings are open to the public. To date, the CRB has been provided with information on all complaints and had the opportunity to request further review of 214 external complaints and 145 internal complaints filed against the WPD. These complaints ranged from officer discipline and misconduct to employee work performance. The CRB reviews closed case files, official reports, video recordings and witness testimony before providing, where appropriate, formal policy and procedural recommendations to the WPD,” the report said.
Exhaust All Other Means Before Shooting: “WPD policy and Kansas statute K.S. A. 21-5227 states: ‘An officer is justified in using deadly force only when such officer reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to such officer or another person,’” the report said.
Ban Shootings at Vehicles: “WPD is implementing new language into its revised use-of-force policy to include the following policy language: ‘Shooting at vehicles is prohibited, except when someone in the vehicle is using or threatening deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself, or the vehicle is being used as a weapon of mass destruction in an apparent act of terrorism. Officers should attempt to move out of the way of the vehicle if able to do so’ (Policy 906 Section B, subsection I),” the report said.
Adopt the Use of Force Continuum with at Least Six Points and Clear Rules of Engagement: The report says, “WPD trains all of its officers on the Use of Force Continuum,” a standard – usually shown in a chart – that provides law enforcement officers and civilians with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation.
The report continues: “The ‘8cantwait’ initiative defines the force continuum as restricting ‘the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations’ and ‘creating clear policy restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic.’
“We agree and WPD’s training is consistent with this. Deadly force is clearly restricted to extreme situations, and the use of specific tools/techniques is specifically restricted in our use of force policy.
And if there is a use of force, WPD is adding language to policy 912 regarding rendering medical aid following use of deadly or non-deadly force, stating that ‘emergency medical attention will be immediately rendered, as soon as it is safe to administer aid, following any police action which results in deadly force or non-deadly use of force.’
This aid will include but not be limited to:
• The officer administering first aid;
• Requesting of any additional advanced first aid or advance medical attention which may be required, and;
“If the subject complains of an injury or if the officers suspect injury the officer will request EMS at the scene to medically evaluate the subject,” the report said.
Develop a Comprehensive Reporting Process for Use of Force: “WPD policy 913 requires comprehensive reporting and states: ‘any officer who uses physical force, weapons, items or devices against a person shall complete an incident report,’” the report said.
Ban No-Knock Warrants: “WPD supports a ban on no-knock warrants for most warrants including narcotics warrants,” the report said. “WPD has restricted how no-knock warrants are used and implemented strict oversight and approval procedures in collaboration with the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office and will require approval from a Deputy Chief of Police. For most narcotics cases, the risks associated with no-knock warrants simply aren’t worth the potential benefits. No-knock warrants are needed for infrequent situations like hostage rescue and violent crimes
A number of concerns listed by the community in the June meeting were not addressed in the new report, including.
• Filing a false police report or planting evidence are grounds for an officer’s termination and criminal prosecution.
• Renegotiate the Fraternal Order of Police Unions contract so bad cops can be fired.
• Make each officer’s misconduct and disciplinary history available via a Kansas Open Records Act request and available to other law enforcement agencies.
• Make it a fire-able offense if any officer does not immediately provide emergency medical aid to an injured suspect or bystander.
• Allow more Own Recognizance (OR) bonds to get out of jail for non-violent offenses. Poor people are lingering in jail just because they can’t afford to make bail, while richer people go bail out, turning our public jails into a pauper’s jail – place for housing the poor.
• Mandate immediate drug testing when an officer is involved in any deployment of his/her taser or firearm. Police are not beyond using drugs. This change clarifies whether the officer was in any way impaired.
• Mediate instead of litigate to rebuild trust and heal. This is a change for the City of Wichita who always defends police in court against misconduct. This makes filing charges very expensive for, especially when the city drags on cases for years. Instead, this item suggests the city should mediate a settlement in of taking the case to court.
• Stop re-arresting people for minor parole or probation violations. This repetitive cycle of incarceration makes it difficult for an individual to move forward with their life.
• Stop issuing traffic tickets for non-moving violations. Those include minor charges like having a headlight or brake light out, and the dreaded no light over the license plate. (But a new Lights On! program may roll out soon.)
• WPD chief and sheriff to publish quarterly public reports of traffic citations issued, complaints filed and officer disciplinary actions taken by race and age. Data gives the community quantifiable measures to judge the department’s performance by.
• Provide defendants a receipt for seized property plus provide them instructions on how to get their property back when they’re found not guilty. This is a step against Kansas’ Asset Forfeiture Laws, which allow the police to take your property if they believe it was acquired in association with a crime. In addition, they can keep your property even if you’re found not guilty.
• Sheriff must provide a quarterly report of the people in the jail by race, gender, age, type of offense and arresting agency.
• Have new recruits participate in community cleanup challenges to get a feel for and bond with the community.
• The WPD Chief and sheriff must budget for and provide mental health treatment for any officer who has PTSD symptoms or is under significant stress.
• Transfer the millions of dollars paid each year to store body camera images to fund more mental health and homeless programs in Wichita. Storing years and hours of police video is expensive to maintain. Getting rid of more of the old data, could save the city a lot of money that could be used for other programs.
• Include a separate category for Hispanic people on police reports instead of being reported as White. Identifying Hispanics as White skews the numbers and makes it look as though minorities are not as disproportionately impacted by the courts.
• Eliminate the motorcycle traffic enforcement unit.