More details of a violent encounter between off-duty Wichita police officers acting as private security guards at roller rink and two teenage children came out in the Tuesday morning (Jan. 3) Wichita City Council meeting, where Mayor Brandon Whipple leveraged the rules of the consent agenda to allow time for people who had not had time to sign up to speak under regular rules to address the council.
Whipple pulled a request for routine funding in the consent agenda to open the floor to discussion of all policing issues, which allowed the public to talk about the incident that occurred at Roller City on South Meridian St., where a young man was beaten, thrown against a wall and pepper-sprayed by an off-duty WPD officer.
A mother’s story
Among those who spoke was the mother of the girl whose argument with roller rink staff set the whole incident in motion.
“I’m Mia Moore, the mother of the girl involved. She, another daughter and a grand-daughter were all at the roller rink when this happened,” she said. “I’m White. My kids are Brown. All I ask is that you listen.
“I was not contacted at all, not by police or by the staff of the rink. I learned about it from my other children. I was on my way to work and I turned back to go to the roller rink. The police laughed at me when I showed up. When I asked that she be medically cleared before going to JIAC (Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center), they laughed.
“She sat in a police car in front of Roller City for hours before they took her to JIAC. Another adult witness told me that the officer had her on the floor with a knee on her neck. My child is scared. She doesn’t want to give her account. She’s afraid. She’s humiliated. People are criticizing my parenting, criticizing the other mother’s parenting. Our children are not violent, not gang members. They’re scrawny little kids.”
She told the council that she hadn’t spoken up before her appearance there because she has been afraid.
“I’ll never forget the fear of getting that call when my child and grandchild are calling saying ‘come quick, they’re beating her, they’re hurting her’.”
She also shared that her daughter and the boy in the incident are dating and that the boy calls her “mom.”
Police Union pushes back
The Fraternal Order of Police also issued a media statement on the incident on Jan. 3, expressing disappointment at statements made by Mayor Whipple at a community press conference on Jan. 2.
“We would hope the Mayor, who is tasked with leading the city would not make reckless statements without knowing all the facts and context,” the statement reads. “This only causes more division within the community.”
Wichita’s new police chief, Joseph Sullivan, is conducting an investigation into the incident and has placed the male officer involved on desk duty.
“It is critically important that the Police Department have the complete content and facts of the incident before passing judgment. We would hope the Mayor would agree that a brief snippet of the video does not provide the full context of the incident.”
No camera footage
In an interview with the Wichita Eagle, the owner of Roller City, Debbie Cotter, said there is no security camera footage of the events leading up to the altercation because the camera in the lobby wasn’t working.
Since the police officers involved were off-duty, they were not required to wear body cameras as is required by all WPD patrol officers while on duty. .
Some legislative questions
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau also spoke to the council and said that as a legislator, she is going to push for accountability requiring that funds appropriated to local law enforcement be spent where they are needed most.
“What kind of training are we doing to get these outcomes?” she asked. “What’s happening with hiring? Are we asking the right questions and doing the right checks? We need to look at how we are advancing people in the police department.”
Another speaker, Annie Atkins, questioned the council’s authority to roll back charges against the teenagers involved. She was told by legal counsel that the separation of powers between the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government does not allow the council to interfere in court cases.
While the council does have a vote on the amount of settlements in civil court actions, it cannot participate in the decision to confirm or deny a suit.