Community group calls for more action in response to leaked text messages

Leaked text messages between Wichita police offices, Sedgwick County deputies include racist and homophobic comments.
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 8:29 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A Wichita community group is calling for more action after the discovery of inappropriate text messages exchanged last year between Wichita police officers and deputies with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office. Those messages have been described as racist and homophobic.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said he recently heard about the text messages, but former WPD Chief Gordon Ramsay said he did tell Layton about them almost a year ago.

Now, the president of the “God Squad,” a community action group, said he wants to see harsher punishments for the officers involved.  Pastor Roosevelt DeShazer said Ramsay came directly to him to inform the community of the situation at the time it happened in April 2021.

WPD said it investigated 11 of its officers, three of which are no longer with the department. DeShazer said when Ramsay told him about the messages, he wasn’t given specific details. He’d like to see further punishment now the content has been described.

The agenda for a Citizens Review Board meeting earlier this month at which an investigation came to light and community members addressed the issue, the messages were discovered while the Wichita Police Department was investigating allegations of domestic violence involving a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputy. The deputy’s cell phone was seized and downloaded as part of a search warrant on April 8, 2021. That’s when it was discovered WPD officers and deputies shared text messages and pictures described as “unbecoming of an officer.” The details weren’t made public until messages were leaked to the Wichita Eagle.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said the now former deputy who was on suspension for domestic violence resigned the next day. As the investigation continued, he said two other sheriff’s office employees involved retired before the investigation concluded.

“We’re trying to build here in Wichita a relationship between our community and our law enforcement. A relationship of trust, dependability, and accountability,” DeShazer said. “And, to have that kind of conduct, that really kind of scratches at it and really tears it.”

He said he does appreciate steps taken by the sheriff’s office and that the deputies involved are no longer with the county, “but that does not mean that it’s been eliminated from the sheriff’s department.”

“With the police department has done, I believe they could have done more and we’re hoping that they do, do more,” DeShazer said. “But that does not mean, even with those officers that are still there, if they get reprimanded more, it does not mean the problem will be eliminated.”

Interim WPD Chief Lem Moore said the department immediately took the investigation to the FBI and the DOJ reviewed the documents. He said he wants to continue building rust between community and Wichita’s police department.

“I feel the same way as many citizens when it comes to that photo (referencing a racist meme officers shared), so it’s important for us to understand that we can still continue to work together, that they have someone in this seat that’s going to listen to them, that’s going to accomplish and get something done,” Moore said. “I’m not afraid to be transparent and let the city manager know and let the mayor know what’s going on in my shop.”

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