The City of Wichita released the results of its investigation into the racist text sent by 12 current members of the city’s Police Department. While the report provided some direction for future action, it left many questions unanswered even whether the officers will be subject to discipline.
The internal investigation was ordered one-month ago by Wichita City Manager Robert Layton. Although he has control over all city departments, Layton says he only learned about the offensive texts by the SWAT team members when he was told about them by a member of the city’s Citizen Review Board in late February.
Unanswered question #1– How does the City manager not know anything about these racist texts, the disciplinary review of their actions, the reviews by the Professional Standards Bureau, and the external investigation by the FBI until nearly eight months after the offensive texts were discovered?
Layton, Mayor Brandon Whipple and members of the City Council stood, in what appeared to be solitary, behind Layton when he announced the internal investigation. Layton called the officer’s behavior “something we don’t tolerate in the City.” But after the month-long investigation, the committee’s findings and recommendations still don’t provide a clear answer as to whether the officers can even be disciplined.
The recommendations were clear, members of the committee did not feel the discipline the officers received was appropriate, “given the seriousness of the offenses and the impact on the community, WPD and City.”
Unanswered question #2 Can the officers be disciplined? According to the report’s findings, “the Law Department is reviewing whether discipline can be issued at this time and will provide the Chief of Police with a separate legal opinion.
However, if the Law Department finds discipline is permitted, the report recommends Interim Chief Lem Moore review the PSB report and related documents to determine what level of discipline is warranted.
The report identified several clear departmental conduct policies the officers violated, including conduct unbecoming an officer and “discrimination prohibited.” Identified as a discrimination prohibited violation is use of racial or gender-based disparaging language, threats or epithets. All of these were present in the officers’ text threads released earlier this month by the Citizen’s Review Board
Can the officers be reassigned to non-enforcement activities? The report says yes.
Unanswered question #3 Officers can be reassigned, but WILL they be reassigned to non-enforcement activities? Before reassigning the officers, the recommendations call for the evaluation of the impact reassigning these officers will have on WPD enforcement capacity with steps taken to mitigate a potential decrease in service level.
Unanswered question #4 Are there any Brady-Giglio offenses and concerns associated with the officers’ conduct? Brady/Giglio is a federal integrity policy that requires prosecutors to disclose any evidence they have that might“casts a substantial doubt upon the accuracy” of an officer called as a witness for a law enforcement agency.
There were three Sedgwick County officers involved in the racist text sharing and once Sedgwick County District Attorney Mark Bennett learned about the text, he immediately decided that Brady/Giglio applied and he dismissed all the current cases involving the three officers and began an investigation into their previous cases to see if the cases might have been compromised by the officers’ involvement.
Instead of immediately taking similar action with the involved Wichita officers, the report’s recommendations call for Bennett and the City’s Chief Prosecutor to evaluate and “agree that the misconduct by the WPD officers might require Brady-Giglio disclosure,” which could impact the officers’ ability to testify in court and reduce the officers’ effectiveness to enforce state law and city ordinances.
The report continues by recommending Interim Chief Moore also evaluate the impact Brady-Giglio will have on the effectiveness of officers involved in the misconduct.
Unanswered question #5 Why are they recommending two different evaluations of whether or not the officers’ actions put them into a Brady/Giglio compliance issue?
Unanswered question #6 Why does the report focus the blame for the lack of strong-disciplinary action on former Police Chief Gordan Ramsay and Deputy Police Chiefs Chester Pinkston and Jose Salcido, when there appears to be a lot of blame to go around?
According to the report, these three top officials in WPD independently shifted their position from wanting to charge the officers with a more serious violation of a D-Level Conduct Unbecoming an officer to charging them with the less serious B-Level Good Judgment violation.
Unanswered question #7 Why would these individuals independently make this major reduction in disciplinary action – or actual lack of disciplinary action since the resulting “coaching and mentoring” that the officers were given is not classified as discipline?
According to the report, the three acted totally in a silo, failing to gather input from the City Attorney, the City’s HR Director, the Assistant City Manager assigned to their department or the City manager. However, we do know that they contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and ask them analyze if any action should be taken.
Unanswered questions #8 It seems kind of strange that they would ignore all in-house support and instead jump straight to calling the FBI in to investigate if any laws were broken by the texts. Unanswered: why they went directly to the FBI or DID they go straight to the FBI?
Finally, the report made a strong recognition of a process problem followed by a strong recommendation for corrective action. The report says the Fraternal Order of Police was “permitted” to influence discipline recommendations of the officers at an inappropriate point in the disciplinary process. After continuing with a bit of wavering, saying they weren’t able to verify that this actually occurred, the report pointed out there is a formal established grievance process that allows for the FOP to participate in officer