Wichita’s new police chief says allegations of racism will get serious attention during his time as chief and he will not tolerate racist conduct of any kind.
“Racism has no place in our society, and even more so in a department charged with upholding public safety and treating our residents equitably and respectfully. Our officers are, rightfully, held to a higher standard than others, both on and off the clock.” said the new chief. “I want my WPD team to reflect values of fairness and equality and to always put the community before themselves.”
Sullivan said he is in the process of implementing a program that he has seen in operation in other communities and wants to try to spearhead in Wichita.
“I’d like to bring all new recruits on a one-day bus trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma to visit Greenwood Rising – the home of Black Wall Street.” he said.
The Chief said he recently had an opportunity to visit the site and found it extremely impactful. An educational tour of the site will show recruits how important it is to look at their own actions and lead with integrity and equity.
Sullivan said he knows of other law enforcement agencies that have taken recruits on a similar field trip, but to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“I’ve talked to other police leaders who have led these trips and they shared with me that the bus ride to the museum is a great way for recruits to bond,” he said. “And the bus ride back is absolutely silent.”
We visited with a busy new chief via email on several other topics. Here are his responses to our questions in several areas.
Expanded community policing
Sullivan says the Wichita department does a phenomenal job with community policing and he wants to enhance that and empower officers to continue to do more.
“From helping a family get necessities during tough times to connecting with at-risk kids and doing checkups with victims, our officers are out there connecting with the community and being ambassadors for what policing is truly about: bettering the lives of our residents,” said Sullivan. “But we can do more. I hope with more resources and officers we are able to expand the ways in which we help residents.”
He added that community policing is crucial to ending drive-by shootings and decreasing gun violence in general.
“By employing personal intervention through community policing, we can reduce criminal activity. Adopting a more aggressive response to gun violence and stopping drive-by shootings are important to me.”
Identifying officers in Lofton Death
Asked if he would identify the officers who were involved in the actions that ended in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton.
He responded that he is reviewing the idea of identifying those officers but that it is “crucial that I stay within the parameters of the police union contract and not cost the taxpayers money through costly litigation.”
At the same time, he said is very supportive of increased training and would like to see all Wichita officers certified in Crisis Intervention Training.
“The ICT-1 program is a great base for responding to mental health calls. In a crisis, police are first on the scene regardless of resources, so ensuring our officers are trained to best respond to the mental health needs of residents is important.”
Sullivan said he is also excited about the expansion of the social work program within WPD.
He also said he would like to expand officer training in diversity and inclusion and other non-confrontational tactics.
There will be marijuana enforcement
Chief Sullivan made it clear that Wichita police officers will enforce state laws prohibiting the use, possession or purchase of marijuana or Fentanyl test strips.
“Wichita does not have the authority to make those legal,” he said. “The city ordinance change repeals current City codes related to the possession of marijuana. With the amended ordinance, the only difference is that possession charges will not be charged in Municipal Court, but could be charged in District Court.
Handling disciplinary matters
Sullivan said he plans to have “final say in all disciplinary matters” when it comes to indiscretions on the part of officers.
“I am dedicated to ensuring that all discipline is fair and fits with the indiscretion. I plan to work with the City Human Resources department and be transparent with the citizen review board, city leadership, elected officials and, as much as I can, the public, about disciplinary matters,” Sullivan said. “Discipline is never popular, but I want my officers to know they will be treated appropriately and fairly.
“It’s important to me that my officers never lose sight of the fact that their first and most important duty is to the people – all people – and protecting them while following a high moral code as well as the law of the land.”