The City of Wichita has entered a one-year contract with a nationally recognized consulting firm to conduct a thorough evaluation of the Wichita Police Dept. following the revelation that members of the department had shared offensive and racist comments in text messages.
The evaluation will examine personnel training and culture of the department and will include an examination of off-duty contacts, social media posts, and affiliation with political or social groups, as well as evaluating the promotion and disciplinary processes used by the department.
“This is not to point fingers at any one person,” said Councilman Bryan Frye, emphasizing that the review will look for gaps in processes and procedures that permit inappropriate conduct to go unnoticed.
The city will pay the consulting firm Jensen Hughes $214,056 and expects to have a report from the firm in about six months. The firm has a national reputation for conducting police department assessments, including a recent review of the Louisville, KY, Police Department following the 2020 shooting death of Breona Taylor.
Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said Jensen Hughes will give the city a thorough assessment and provide a comparison of how Wichita is doing compared to other departments around the country.
“It’s all about strengthening the department,” he said.
The decision to hire an outside review arose from a text messaging scandal that involved 13 officers. Eight officers were disciplined last month after a department investigation in the homophobic and racially charged messages. The Jensen Hughes review will not re-investigate that incident but will focus instead on moving the department forward.
Mayor Brandon Whipple said the firm will be talking to community members, police officers, and other interested parties.
“We had nine applicants for this contract and we believe that we selected the very best,” Whipple said. “We are being proactive about what we are doing. We believe the results we get will provide us tools for training future police officers and will help the next Chief of Police.”
Whipple said the city and the department will be looking at issues from the past and making changes that are recommended by the consultants.
Layton said the council will get monthly updates on the review. The council approved the contract on a 6-1 vote, with council member Jeff Blubaugh voting no.