Report: WPD officers not given appropriate discipline for misconduct, texts

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 9:29 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The City of Wichita held a briefing Thursday morning to discuss findings from an internal review of how 12 Wichita police officers who shared discriminatory images and text conversations, and made light of the use of force by officers were disciplined.

City Manager Robert Layton, Assistant City Manager Donte Martin and interim Police Chief Lem Moore were on hand to take questions about the report.

According to the document, the reviewing committee believed the discipline issued by WPD following the June 2021 investigation was not appropriate given the seriousness of the offenses and the impact on the community, WPD and city. Lt. Robert Reichenberger, Chief Lem Moore, Deputy Chief Chester Pinkston and Deputy Chief Jose Salcido responded to questions from the committee and explained relevant WPD policies, according to the report.

The inappropriate texts messages were discovered in April 2021 when a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputy involved in a domestic violence case had his phone searched. The Wichita Police Department was called to investigate messages for transparency. On the phone, they found multiple conversations and group chats with other deputies and the 12 WPD officers. Not all officers participated in the chats. According to the report, the text messages spanned about six years, between December 2015 and February 2021. The majority of messaging occurred between May 2018 and February 2021.

In collaboration with the former Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, the deputy chiefs reviewed the Professional Standards Bureau reports and issued the discipline.

The report states that Ramsay and the deputy chiefs failed to “exercise leadership at a critical time and adequately address officer misconduct while making a strong, clear statement that behavior of this type will not be tolerated.”

The report states that the committee “questions whether coaching and mentoring can be considered a disciplinary act under the terms of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) contract and WPD regulations in place at the time. Arguably, no discipline was administered to those officers who received ‘education-based discipline’ or ‘coaching and mentoring.’”

The law department is now reviewing whether additional discipline can be issued and will provide interim Chief Moore with a separate legal opinion, according to the report. If the chief chooses to issue discipline, several WPD regulations have to be considered and would permit the chief to issue a higher level of discipline.

The report goes on to state that the officers involved in the “use of force” text messages can be reassigned to non-enforcement activities, but “the impact on WPD enforcement capacity and steps should be taken to mitigate a potential decrease in service level.”

The Sedgwick County District Attorney and the city’s chief prosecutor are now evaluating and agree that the misconduct could require Brady-Giglio disclosure, which would affect the officers’ ability to testify in court and reduces the officers’ effectiveness to enforce state law and city ordinances. The committee recommends Chief Moore evaluate the impact Brady-Giglio will have on the effectiveness of officers involved in the misconduct and take necessary steps to minimize the negative impact on criminal prosecutions.

The report recommends an independent third party review the WPD culture, administrative policies and disciplinary procedures and practices. The committee would also like to see recommendations provided by the Citizens Review Board, who also looked over the investigation, be reviewed and implemented, where possible.

“Additional amendments should be considered that would provide CRB with the tools it needs to thoroughly review and recommend policy changes regarding discipline and other matters,” reads the report.

The review committee was composed of Assistant City Manager Donte Martin, City Attorney Jennifer Magana, Human Resources Director Chris Bezruki, Deputy City Attorney Sharon Dickgrafe, Assistant City Attorney Van Halley, Citizen’s Review Board Chair Jay Fowler, Outside Legal Counsel Jennifer Hill and Senior Human Resource Specialist Susan Leiker.

Copyright 2022 KWCH. All rights reserved.