WPD Chief Gordon Ramsay: 'We wanted to allow the protest to occur'

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay addressed the Black Lives Matter protest that was held in the northeast part of the city Tuesday night.

He began by saying that the department is the flashpoint for many community relations problems. Ramsay said that his department has been working with several groups, including several of those who participated in Tuesday night's protest.

Ramsay said the department was aware of the protest before it happened. He said he spoke to organizers ahead of time and was able to organize his crews.

"We all worked well together. One of the things clear to me was our good working relationship," said Ramsay.

He said the police department didn't use any overtime to cover the event. There were about 49 officers in area if the protest were to get out of control, but ultimately, the goal was to allow the protest to occur.

Ramsay said there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work.

"There was a deliberate effort to back off appearance of Wichita police at this rally," he said

He said having officers so visible would not have been productive.

"My charge was any (officer who made) contact with protesters would respect people and treat them professionally" said Ramsay.

"I was talking with one of the main protesters as we were walking down the street. We had people policing themselves," he said.

Originally, he said about 70 to 100 people were expected to attend the rally, but as coverage of the event grew, so did the amount of participants.

"What are factors of successful rally? No one got hurt. No property damage. People got to express their feelings. No arrests," he said.

One plan protesters had was to block off access to I-135. Ramsay said that was the territory of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Troopers closed access off to the highway from the on and off ramps, due to motorists traveling at high speeds, the fact that the highway is critical for transit, and it's dangerous to cross. It is also illegal for pedestrians to be on the highway.

Ramsay said 13th Street was not busy at that time of night. So he allowed protesters to proceed there.

"I was down there. I crossed that protest line many times. Those stuck in traffic were there because they chose to be there," he said.

Ramsay said this isn't the first protest to block a city street. He said on Sunday there was a protest that shut down an area of Douglas and Broadway, but traffic was so light that no one noticed.

He said the Wichita Police Department currently has 30 officers less than it did in 2009, and many new recruits in training. He said this has hampered community policing efforts.

Ramsay said his department will continue to work with our community leaders to do everything they can to address and find solutions for the issues that divide the Wichita Police Department and the community of Wichita.