Wichita Police Officer Justin Rapp — the man who shot Andrew Finch in 2017 during a swatting case that made national news — was promoted June 25 to detective, concerning Mayor Brandon Whipple and several other city leaders.
More than just the Finch shooting, for which Rapp was cleared of any wrongdoing, elected officials were concerned about Rapp’s promotion in light of racist texts made by WPD SWAT officers that were a center of controversy earlier this year.
In the texts, many of which were racists and sexists, officers congratulate each other for “permanent deescalation,” i.e. killing, of individuals who “needed it.”
When we talked with Whipple in Mid-June, he had heard about the impending promotion from members of the community. In response, Whipple and Wichita City Council members Maggie Ballard and Mike Hoheisel met with Interim Police Chief Lem Moore and City Manager Robert Layton.
“Chief Moore politely reminded us that as a policy branch, it’s not our call,” Whipple told The Community Voice.
In the city’s governmental structure, the mayor and city council members make policy but do not have a say in hiring and firing decisions of the city, other than hiring and firing of the city manager, the city’s chief administrative officer.
The mayor called the timing of the promotion “weird” because of an upcoming third-party review approved by the City Council of WPD and its culture.
“This report we’re waiting on is more of a deep dive into the culture of our police department and what that entails,” said Whipple.
The city’s SWAT team has an extensive history of shooting to kill. In the six years leading up to the December 2017 shooting of 28-year-old Finch, Wichita police shot at citizens 21 times — resulting in the deaths of a dozen people, many of whom posed no threat, according to a brief filed in civil lawsuit filed against the City by Finch’s family.
The family’s lawsuit cites FBI crime statistics showing Wichita has a ratio of one shooting death for every 120 officers — a number that is 11 times greater than the national ratio and 12 times greater than the ratio in Chicago.
Noting recent leaks from within the department, the mayor questioned whether there was a culture in the department that didn’t allow officers to feel comfortable coming forward.
“We’ve seen police leaking information to the press. Is there a culture that they feel they can’t come forward (internally)? This study has purpose behind it and value. We want to make sure we’re not jumping too far ahead before we get that information back. Is it a good idea to promote someone (Rapp) who’s been controversial?”
Whipple said that “according to Chief Moore, (Rapp’s) file is pretty good” because the Finch shooting didn’t result in any disciplinary action under previous chief Gordon Ramsay.
Police spokesman Chad Ditch said that “a number of WPD personnel will be promoted from officer to detective. We can confirm Officer Rapp is among them. Per the terms of their employment with WPD and by seniority in service to the department, they earned their promotions having successfully passed both a written test and oral interviews. This is covered under Policy 216. It would be out of compliance with the terms of employment with the Wichita Police Department to not promote these employees upon successful completion of the competitive promotion process.”
“One of the issues is we’re trying to rebuild community trust, especially after the racist and homophobic text messages that came to light. Does this promotion put us back when it comes to regaining this public trust?”
Rapp’s salary as an officer was $65,302.12; his hourly wage is about $31.40.
Rapp’s salary as a detective is $69,994; his hourly wage is $33.65.
Updated: 07/06/22 we incorrectly identified Rapp as a member of the city’s SWAT team.