WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) The family of Andrew Finch is calling for the Wichita Police Department to release the name of the officer who shot and killed him last year.
"I want it to be made public. I don't know why he gets to hide," said Andrew mother's, Lisa, during a press conference Wednesday.
Finch died Dec. 28 when police responded to a "swatting" call at his residence. Police say Finch did not obey commands to keep his hands raised in the air. When he lowered them, the deadly shooting occurred.
Lisa Finch testified before the Kanas House's Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Tuesday afternoon as a key proponent of House Bill 2581. The bill is aimed at increasing penalties for people who make "swatting" calls. It was introduced after her son's death.
Andrew M. Stroth is the attorney for the Finch family. He acknowledges Tyler Barriss, the man who placed the swatting call has some responsibility in the deadly shooting, but he says he's not the one who fired the weapon that killed Andrew Finch.
The family has filed a lawsuit against the City of Wichita.
"This is lawsuit is about the reform of a police department that has a pattern and active of unjustified use of excessive and lethal force," said Stroth.
Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay released the following statement regarding why he has not released the officers names.
As police chief I need to balance transparency with the safety of officers and their families. In recent weeks I have received threats of people shooting my children and wishing bad things upon them. Society has changed. Patience and civility have been lost, along with a respect and understanding of due process. When an officer’s life or their family’s lives are in danger it is my responsibility to ensure their safety. I take that responsibility seriously.
Not releasing officer’s names in shootings is a long-standing City practice that goes back decades and many chiefs of police. A change in this practice impacts the working conditions is subject to mandatory bargaining per the City labor contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. There are exceptions to this, such as if an officer is charged with a crime, the name will be public. The District Attorney’s Office does not name individuals unless they have been charged with a crime.
Not releasing names of officers is far from an isolated practice. The Kansas Highway Patrol, Sedgewick County Sheriff, area police departments and Kansas City, Kansas, Olathe and Overland Park do not release officers’ names.
I am committed to making changes to improve best practices, community policing and protect the integrity of this department. I have demonstrated that since I joined the department in 2016 and in recent months with naming officers charged with certain crimes and placing them on unpaid leave.
Wednesday evening, Kansas Law Enforcement Wives, (a group made up of officers' wives, as the name indicates) issued a statement also touching on the additional safety concerns for officers that can come with "barriers between their profession and personal lives" diminishing.
As a spouse of a law enforcement officer we know first-hand how dangerous our spouse’s profession is. They risk their lives daily to form a barrier between criminals and society. Now more than ever our society no longer looks at our police officers as human beings and the barriers between their profession and their personal lives have been diminished. In the past, our officers could to some extent protect themselves and their families from threats but today these risks have changed. The power of social media has brought danger home to our officers and their loved ones with personal threat being the greatest danger. They can no longer shield themselves as easily from the repercussion of their jobs defending the community. 18 Law Enforcement Officers have died in the line of duty so far this year, that’s 18 husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. In this profession any life lost is tragic whether it’s a civilian or a law enforcement officer.
“We have a cultural epidemic of a lack of respect for law enforcement and authority…We have to make a change in the way that we think.”
--Rachael Flick, Widow of Deputy Sheriff Micah Flick