Wichita mayor addresses call for policy improvements after Cedric Lofton death
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The community continues to react after Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced no charges in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton. The teen died last September, two days after he was restrained following a struggle at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC).
Now, the City of Wichita is looking to make improvements to its policies. Eyewitness News spoke with Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple about the case and how the situation could have been handled differently.
Whipple said no family should have to go through this again and that changes are necessary on what Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita are doing to help those going through a mental health crisis, as Lofton was when he was taken into custody last September.
At about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 24, Bennett said officers talked with Lofton for about an hour at his foster family’s home, saying they were taking him to Via Christi St. Joseph hospital as he was showing signs of a mental health crisis. Then, Wichita police said Lofton became combative. That’s when a WPD supervisor decided he should go to the county’s juvenile intake facility, or JIAC.
IN the body cam footage from that early morning, officers differing opinions on where Lofton should be transported can be heard. That’s where Whipple said in this moment, there should have been help for Lofton, regardless of where he was taken.
“My understanding is, there was a discussion of taking this young person here or there but there really was no discussion or no challenge to the fact that he was going through a mental health crisis. So regardless of where this young person winds up, he should have access to mental health care and that’s something we should be looking at as policy makers to make sure that we can have those in place.”
Sedgwick County does have a program called ICT 1 that utilizes mental health professionals that respond to certain mental health calls. But that is only when the staff is available. Whipple said this service is essential but needs funding.
“We should definitely be scaling up the ICT1 and also figuring out ways to also integrate other services into places like JIAC,” Whipple said. “What more can we be doing? It’s going to be a team effort.”
Sedgwick County on Tuesday announced that the county’s department of corrections is forming a community taskforce “that will facilitate a structured community review of the incident and death of Cedric Lofton.”
“The taskforce will review system standards, strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for improvements,” the county said.
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