Wichita’s new Chief of Police, Joseph Sullivan, says the just-completed assessment of the department closely matches his own assessment and that some of the recommendations are already being implemented.

“We’ve already started expanding training,” he said. “Pre Promotion training was something I felt strongly we needed to get started with right away and we have done. Getting my executive team in place is also something I want to put a priority on getting done.”

The chief’s remarks were made in a media briefing Monday morning following the release of the steeply critical report at the close of business on Friday.

Two officials from Jensen Hughes, the consulting firm hired to do an operational assessment of the department were present via Zoom. Robert Davis, senior vice president and practice lead, and Edward Denmark, subject-matter expert, also made comments and answered questions.

Davis praised Wichita for being “progressive” enough to take the initiative to ask for the assessment on their own. He said he started Jensen Hughes after retiring from a 30-year career in law enforcement and has been helping cities address law enforcement issues for about 10 years.

Jensen Hughes has a contract with the U.S. Department of Justice to help them with investigations and was involved in assessments of the Louisville, Ky., police department after the killing of Breona Taylor and in Minneapolis, Minn. after the death of George Floyd.

“I am happy to say that we are fortunately not seeing the kind of problems here that we’ve seen in some cities.”

‘Willingness to work” a good sign

Denmark had praise for Wichita leaders, police officers, support staff and community members for their willingness to talk about problems and their eagerness to find solutions.

He said that although the firm did find serious problems that need to be addressed, they found nothing that puts residents of the city in greater danger or creates a public safety issue.

He cited as an example the pervasive perception that some of the oral boards for promotions are “stacked” in favor of some officers over others.

“It may or may not actually be true,” he said. “But the mere fact that it came up over and over says that the process of promotion exams needs to be examined and steps taken to make it clear how decisions are made.”

He said surveys went out by email to all 580 sworn officers and 430 of them responded – a response rate of more than 70%.

“The accounting consultant we work with was very happy with the response rate and felt like he had a very representative sample to work from,” he said.

Sullivan said these are “difficult times” and he’s working hard to fill the 60 vacancies currently open in the department.

Adequate staffing is critical to response times and to thorough investigations, he said. 

“No other function’ as important as community policing

He also said there is no more important function than community policing because policing at all levels requires the trust of the community.

“Without the trust of the community to report crime and to testify in court, you can’t be effective. I am absolutely committed to making everything we do governed by our commitment to serving our communities,” Sullivan said.

Wichita City Manager Bob Layton expressed his thanks to Jensen Hughes for their quick work in completing the assessment and for providing the WPD and the city with a roadmap for how to move forward to make Wichita the best police force in the country.

“We will absolutely be talking and setting up implementation of some of the short-term changes as soon as this week,” he said. 

He promised the city will   implement the consultants’ recommendations in a “comprehensive and transparent way” and that progress will be tracked on a publicly accessible dashboard.

Davis agreed that charting progress is important but quickly warned against looking at the recommendations as some kind of checklist.

“You can’t just put everything up there and check it off like a to-do list,” he said. “This is something that has to be a process. There will be some things that happen quickly and some things that will take longer and some that will take a very long time.”

He said it is refreshing to see both city and police officials committed to moving forward. 

“Believe me, that is not always the case,” he said.”We have worked with cities that pushed back on change at every corner.”

Layton said city officials will continue working with Jensen Hughes as they implement change and that he recognizes it will take time for some perceptions to change.

Sullivan said he is open to more communication with the press and he believes that morale can be rebuilt by being consistent and fair in promotions, discipline and on patrol in the community,

March 11, 2023 Original breaking story with report here.

March 13, 2023 in depth story here.