Former WPD Chief warns mayor, council about HR Director and text message internal review
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update Thursday, May 19, 2022: Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple spoke with Eyewitness News about some of the allegations in former Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay’s letter to the mayor and Wichita City Council members, as well as claims made by deputy chiefs with the WPD.
One thing is clear; there will be a third-party, independent investigation into not only the police department, but other departments at City Hall. On Thursday, Whipple said he regrets his initial reaction to the letter in which he called Ramsay a disgruntled former employee.
“I feel like my tone was reflective through the initial conversations I had. Yeah, I’m not perfect. So, beyond the tone, I agree with Ramsay when it comes to talking a deeper dive into multiple departments,” Whipple said.
The letter is in reference to the City of Wichita’s investigation into racist text messages sent by some WPD officers and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputies. Ramsay suggested hiring an independent firm to investigate. Whipple said that is going to happen. “We will include anywhere else that sows that they might’ve been tied into really covering up or even promoting this type of racist, homophobic behavior, the mayor said. “...If we find out that racism and homophobic text messages that were promoting violence against people of color that originated in the police department that was somehow still supported by HR or other members or staff, we will treat them the same way as anyone who is violating our policies and being unbecoming of (what) our city culture promotes.”
The Wichita Police Department’s former Chief of Police, Gordon Ramsay, has written a letter to Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple and city council members warning them “there is more going on here than meets the eye,” and that he’s willing to testify under oath.
Eyewitness News obtained the letter which was hand-delivered to Mayor Whipple and the City Council Wednesday morning. The letter talks about the recent case regarding the Wichita Police officers and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputies that sent racist, homophobic and sexist text messages throughout the summer of 2021.
In the letter, Ramsay says, “there was so much consistent good work done over the last six years by the Police Department that I hope you see in light of the recent texting case, there is more going on here than meets the eye.”
Ramsay continues with comments about the recent request for proposal (RFP) by the City of Wichita surrounding the texting investigation. The purpose of the RFP is to have an outside firm look into whether the Wichita Police Department handled the text message investigation into its officers correctly. Ramsay is concerned about the recent internal review done by City Manager Robert Layton.
In the letter, he says, “the RFP will likely cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and the stated purpose differs from the real purpose.” Ramsay goes on to say, “The real purpose is to distract attention from the inappropriate interference of the Human Resources Director in the disciplinary system of the WPD and to deflect it onto the very people who brought forward significant ethical and operational concerns.”
The Human Resources Director for the City of Wichita, Chris Bezruki, has worked for the city since the summer of 2013.
Ramsay says he talked with City Manager Robert Layton about inappropriate and unethical involvement by Bezruki in police cases many times.
After the text message investigation was revealed to the public, Layton created an internal review committee to review WPD’s handling of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) investigation into the misconduct of the 12 WPD officers involved in the texting. Eight members were assigned to the committee, including Bezruki.
“Futhermore, the City Manager appointment of the H.R. Director to the committee charged with investigating how the texting case was handled was a flagrant conflict of interest,” Ramsay writes in his letter to mayor and council.
He says, “I have witnessed past requests for information manipulated, information left out and consultant reports changed to fit the requested narrative.” Ramsay warns to “be aware (that) some police employees have recently sought whistleblower protection due to concerns of retaliation by the City Administration for speaking out.”
Ramsay says he is willing to testify under oath to any investigatory body.
In the letter, Ramsay suggests that Whipple and city council seek an independent review that answers directly to them about the following concerns:
- Every Police Department employee discipline case overturned or changed by the Human Resources Manager (or H.R. Department) going back 10 years, associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Every ethics complaint, corruption complaint or any similar complaint made against the H.R. Manager or H.R. Department, associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Every complaint, grievance, objection, or similar complaint made against or about the H.R. Manager or the H.R. department reference their involvement in police discipline and associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Police management requests for police contact negotiations in 2021 and which of those requests were included in the approved and current contract.
- Every change made to the police contract in the last 13 years and examine the operational impacts.
- Complaints of racial, age or sexual discrimination made by City employees to HR over the last 10 years, associated investigative reports, findings and action taken.
- Who makes the policy decision to keep public employee discipline records closed contrary to national best practices.
Ramsay says in the letter that the current issues at Wichita City Hall deserve the continued attention of the mayor and city council members. He says it’s clear they are not aware of all the factors creating a troubled culture at the top levels of City Hall. He says, many are afraid to speak up.
Wednesday afternoon both Bezruki and Layton issued statements regarding the former police chief’s letter.
“I categorically reject the accusations made by former Chief Ramsay in his letter to the Mayor and Council. I look forward to the City’s independent, third-party review to comprehensively complete its work and residents can fully understand what happened so that the City can move forward from this painful incident,” said Bezruki.
Layton said, “I am not opposed to this at all. I understand that he also has concerns about the objectivity of the consultant’s work. This is only a concern if his allegations about information and consultant report manipulation are correct. They are not. We are all anxious to move on from individual claims to a thorough and fair report by the consultant team.”
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