Police union, city leaders respond to claims from high-ranking Wichita police officers

The deputy chiefs claim the city is trying to blame their leadership in regards to how they handled an investigation into inappropriate text messages.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 9:11 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple and a city council member on Tuesday responded after two current deputy chiefs and a former deputy chief with the Wichita Police Department filed an intent letter to sue Wichita City Manager Robert Layton, the city’s HR director and the police union.

The deputy chiefs claim the city is trying to blame their leadership in regards to how they handled an investigation into inappropriate text messages by some Wichita police officers. Authorities discovered those texts last summer and leaked them to the public in March. In the intent letter, the deputy chiefs claim unethical behaviors by city leadership and the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. In the letter, the deputy chiefs ask for an apology, more than $2 million in damages and the resignation of Layton and City of Wichita Human Resources Director Chris Bezruki,

Responding to the potential litigation, Whipple said he needs more facts on the claims before making any judgments.

“I read it and, of course, forwarded it to our legal team. It’s inappropriate for an elected official to comment on legal litigation no matter where it’s coming from,” Whipple said. “But, particularly if it’s coming from something internal because it’s not our position to take sides. It’s our positions to actually take a step back and do a deeper dive into what are the causes of untrust on all sides and what can we do as policy leaders to fix it.”

The mayor said that’s why the city hired an outside, third-party firm that will look at the deputy chiefs’ claims and find the truth.

“My perspective as mayor, I got to look at the evidence, I’ve got to look at the data. And hiring an outside, third party, best-in-the-country firm to come in and do that deep dive investigation to see where the holes are, what’s actually going on, but also, how can we fix it moving forward so that Wichitans can have the best police department that we can have,” Whipple said.

Wichita City Councilmember Bryan Frye at Tuesday’s council meeting, called out the two deputy chiefs still with WPD and called for their resignations.

“The definition of extortion, the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force of threats. It’s mind blowing that two current deputy chiefs with the Wichita Police Department have resorted to this tactic,” Frye said. “Deputy Chief Jose Salcido and Chet Pinkston should resign immediately. Two deputy chiefs who know the law should not be using a threat to extort city council direction. It’s that simple.”

Representing the deputies, attorney James Thompson responded to Frye, saying they are following state law by giving notice to the city. He goes on to say Frye violated federal, state and city law and says it sends a message to other whistle blowers that they will suffer character assassination.

Thompson’s full statement:

“Evidently, Councilman Frye’s dictionary does not include retaliation and slander because Councilman Frye maliciously made very public and very defamatory comments from the city council bench. Frye’s comments came the day after Deputy Chiefs Salcido and Pinkston submitted their state mandated notice to the City of Wichita of their intent to file a lawsuit against the city. Kansas law requires Deputy Chief Salcido and Pinkston give that notice pursuant to K.S.A. 12-105b, which requires they state the factual justification for their claims. Frye’s slanderous remarks are inexcusable and yet another very public example of retaliation against Deputy Chiefs Pinkston and Salcido for calling out corruption, retaliation, and harassment.

Frye’s defamatory comments violate federal, state and city law and send a very clear message to any other whistleblowers in the City of Wichita that if they dare speak out, they too will suffer the same calculated character assassination. And we wonder why more people don’t come forward.

For these reasons, Deputy Chiefs Salcido, Pinkston and Givens will be amending their notice to the city to add Councilman Frye as a future defendant. This should allow Councilman Frye plenty of opportunity to peruse his dictionary since he will need to recuse himself from any further council votes or city business involving the Deputy Chiefs.”