FF12 takes deeper look at Wichita Police Department evidence storage

FactFinder 12 looks deeper into how Wichita police keep their evidence.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 11:43 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A day after the City of Wichita addressed concerns with the Wichita Police Department’s property and evidence, FactFinder 12 took a deeper look into how that evidence is stored. An external audit of where police keep their evidence seemed to reveal evidence missing in 54 cases. However, sources told 12 News this evidence isn’t missing; the issue concerns an error with a new records system.

Anytime there’s a crime, police will collect evidence from the scene. This evidence is taken to the Wichita Police property and evidence building. Inside that building are thousands of pieces of stored evidence.

Last week, FactFinder 12 requested information about the facility. This prompted a city briefing Monday.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said in 2020, former WPD Chief Gordon Ramsay raised concerns about the property and evidence facility. He said Ramsay had an outside auditor come in to address these concerns. In an email FactFinder 12 obtained, Ramsay brought those concerns to Layton in May 2021.

In that email, the former Wichita police chief said more staffing was needed to keep up with the hundreds of thousands of items in the property and evidence facility. He also voiced concern over how items like money and drugs were being stored and recorded.

Layton said he only recently learned about the severity of issues with WPD property and evidence. Tuesday, Wichita city leaders like Councilman Jeff Blubaugh toured the property and evidence facility to get a better understanding of what’s going on.

“It was much better than what I thought it would be,” Blubaugh said. “It’s a very large facility, a lot of evidence. I was amazed to see one of those full floors was just 2018 evidence. So, it’s certainly a large job.”

Blubaugh said even though the audit said there’s evidence missing, he believes everything is in the building.

“We yield to the city manager and staff to be able to update us on this stuff,” he said. “So, when something like this falls off the radar and it’s a big surprise to us, it definitely needs to be addressed. I think Ramsay did do a great job of highlighting some of the areas because I’ve seen them myself and the areas that need attention out there.”

The WPD used to record evidence by a paper system. Now, the recording system is digital. With the paper system, if an officer seized a wallet and it had a $20 bill, a credit card and a driver’s license in it, all four items would be written and entered. With the digital system, the wallet would be given a scannable barcode that would only say “wallet.” This is why, sources say, evidence looks like it’s missing although it actually is in the facility.

Missing evidence could impact criminal cases. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said he doesn’t believe evidence is missing but the new records management system has an issue with sufficiently tracking evidence.

The City of Wichita and its internal auditor said he has plans to address concerns. The city said this will be done over the next few years.