‘He doesn’t know who I am’: Mayor responds after interaction with officer at neighborhood event
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) In body camera footage obtained by 12 News, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple seemingly attempts to exert his political influence to cut in line at a neighborhood event. His behavior caught the attention of a Wichita Police officer, who, Whipple complains, ‘doesn’t know who I am.’
In the footage, timestamped Sept. 24 just after 3 p.m., Whipple is attempting to dump trash at a Wichita neighborhood cleanup. A Wichita city leader and some WPD members told 12 News that Whipple attempted to “cut in line” at the cleanup, driving around other people who were waiting.
Eyewitnesses tell 12 News an officer tried to get Whipple to stop. That’s when the officer turned on his Axon body camera and approached Whipple.
“Frankly, I’m a little shocked after I saw the video,” Whipple said when reached by 12 News Thursday morning. “I was chopping it up as a bad interaction, a misunderstanding. Then when I saw the video, and particularly when he turned on the body camera and what followed afterward, I think, was just cause for concern as we move forward and take a deep dive into our policing policies.”
Whipple released the video first to The Wichita Eagle, and it was later obtained by 12 News.
“I have access to the video, it has me in it,” Whipple said. “My goal is to get that video out as quickly as possible for the sake of transparency.”
How it begins
The body camera footage starts as an officer, who later identifies himself as “Officer (Atlee) Vogt,” approaches Whipple. The mayor calls city manager Robert Layton and tells him, “I’m being screamed at by one of your cops,” asking, “Who’s the (police) chief now?”
“I’ve got a guy who doesn’t know who I am,” Whipple tells Layton. “He’s just screaming at me to turn around, incredibly rude. So I’m going to figure out how to report this.” Whipple asks how to file a complaint against an officer, while Vogt watches calmly and gives his officer identification. He tells Whipple, “I know who you are, Mr. Mayor,” though he later said he didn’t initially recognize Whipple.
“I wanted to pretty much tell (Vogt) I’m here to shake hands, pass out Mayor coins, thank the volunteers - can I do that right now?” Whipple said Thursday. “Instead of having that conversation, it escalated very fast. By the time he actually told me ‘You can no longer use this service,’ That’s when I called the city manager.”
After Layton asks the officer, over the phone, whether Whipple can pass, Vogt says he cannot. Whipple offers to go to the back of the line.
“I called you after this guy (Vogt) tells me I’m no longer welcome at the neighborhood cleanup, and that now he is going to be I guess the authority on who can do the neighborhood cleanup and drop things off,” Whipple says on the phone. “Which is definitely not what we do at City Hall. And that’s why you’re on the phone right now, Bob. That’s the complaint - not that I need to go to the back of the line, it’s that this guy tried to kick me out of what we appropriate for neighborhood cleanup based on his attitude and not any facts.”
As he’s walking away from Whipple’s vehicle, Vogt says all the dumpsters are full and that Whipple cannot unload his items.
“The video didn’t have the interactions of what happened,” Whipple said Thursday. “I was told by (former WPD Chief Gordon) Ramsay that anytime there’s an interaction with a police officer and a member of the public, the body camera is on. That was not the case. It’s very clear in that video -- from my understanding that’s the only video -- it’s missing a big chunk of that interaction.
“It’s sad because, again, we need to be focusing on community policing, we need to be focused on building relationships.”
‘I can’t stand him’
After more than two minutes of walking, body camera footage shows Vogt approaching District 4 community services representative Rebecca Fields, telling her, “I probably just got us all in a little hot water.”
“The mayor showed up and didn’t want to follow instructions to come in here,” Vogt told Fields. “He’s already filed a complaint on me. I didn’t recognize him initially. I told him to turn around and leave and he refused and said, ‘No, let me ask you a question.’”
After Vogt’s further description of the incident, Fields says, “I can’t stand him. Where’s he at now?”
“He’s right there in the red shirt,” Vogt replies. “I told him also when he refused to comply, I told him ‘You’re no longer welcome, you need to leave.’
Fields approaches Whipple and asks why, as a District 3 resident, he is trying to dump items at a District 4 neighborhood cleanup. Whipple indicates he has rental property in District 4. Whipple said Thursday he’s cleaning up a property for a family member.
“It doesn’t matter if my mom drives the mattress to the cleanup or if I drive the mattress to the cleanup,” Whipple told 12 News. “Our house is within those boundaries.”
In the video, Fields eventually relents on pushing Whipple about his residence.
“I pulled into the wrong driveway, it looked like,” Whipple told 12 News. “There’s no cones, nothing, and then the officer who engaged with me was very upset about it. Overall, the read was that there was a line, I didn’t notice that, (and) I was ready to get back in the line.”
What the City says
According to the city’s website, the cleanups are for “any neighborhood where at least a portion of the area falls in the ‘very low to moderate’ income bracket.” The city says that annual incomes range from “very low,” which starts at $9,849, to moderate which tops out at $88,720.
According to city records, Whipple makes more than $100,000 a year.
“When the (body) camera approaches, you can tell -- people know me -- I’m shaken at that point,” Whipple said Thursday. “Because I was just being screamed at. Frankly, none of that is on the body cam, and that, again, supports some of the stories I’ve heard about how this body camera is being selectively utilized to change (the appearance of) the situation of interactions between police and the public. And I got to experience that firsthand.”
In another interaction outside Whipple’s vehicle, Vogt tells him, “I’m sorry that you felt that I was rude; I didn’t recognize you at first. The reason we’re so strict on the rules is because it gets ridiculous. And someone else had followed you in immediately, that’s why it amplifies the problem and that’s why we try to redirect quickly and as fast as we could.”
“Now I understand,” Whipple says. “I didn’t even know what was happening.”
The officer then directs Whipple to re-enter the line to dump his trash.
“I’ve always heard that some of these situations aren’t being caught on body cam,” Whipple said Thursday. “And I’ve defended our policy saying, no, you’re supposed to have your body camera on anytime you’re interacting with a member of the public, especially if you’re being aggressive. So the fact that that video doesn’t start apparently until the officer is checking my tags, initiating the process for...I have no idea, that’s cause for concern as we move forward.”
Another video shows Vogt interacting in a cafeteria with two eyewitnesses -- a man and a woman -- of his interaction with Whipple.
“He didn’t do anything to diffuse the situation,” a man tells Vogt. “...My opinion was like he just (was) kind of like, ‘Don’t you know who I am?”
“I support Brandon,” the man said. “But in that incident, from what I see, he was in the wrong.”
The woman said, “Whether or not you’re the mayor, you’re not special. You’re just like every other citizen.”
“Personally, the man says later, “I thought it was really chicken-(expletive) that he called the city manager.”
“Brandon, what can you do to help the situation out?” he said to the officer. “You have some responsibility, too.”
The man presented the officer with a mayor’s coin he said was given to him by Whipple.
“He’s trying to buy you off,” the woman eyewitness said.
“Like that’s gonna do it,” the man said.
“I’m not going to lie,” the man said. “If my mom was alive, she’d whip my (butt) and wash my mouth out with soap. That’s what happened when I lied.”
Whipple said body camera footage corroborates his side of the story.
“We pay millions of dollars into police training to teach police the latest ways to actually deescalate a situation,” Whipple said. “It is not up to a citizen who just wants to utilize a free community event to clean up the neighborhood to deescalate a situation where a police officer is screaming at them and refusing to answer a question.”
Response from police:
The Fraternal Order of Police released a statement in response to that body camera footage. The FOP lays out what it says happened during the Sept. 24 incident, challenging the mayor’s account of all that occurred. The Wichita Police Department also issued a statement saying in part, the officer acted in accordance with WPD Policy and Regulations.”
“Executive staff have reviewed the Axon Body Camera footage and agree with former Chief (Lemuel) Moore’s assessment that the officer acted in accordance with WPD Policy and Regulations,” the department said. “At this time, there will be no internal investigation regarding our officer’s actions.”
Full FOP statement:
We have seen the video of the Wichita Police Officer and Mayor Whipple from the neighborhood clean-up that occurred on September 24th. We are disappointed at how Mayor Whipple conducted himself during the incident and how he responded after the incident by publicly attacking the Officer. We are also concerned that Mayor Whipple released his own copy of the incident and did not include the video of the witness.
Here is what occurred: The Officer was attempting to stop Mayor Whipple from over 30 yards away. The Officer was, loud, stern and direct in his verbal commands to Mayor Whipple and had to be due to the distance the Officer was from Mayor Whipple who was in his vehicle. The Officer initiated the contact because Mayor Whipple made an improper U-turn, going through a closed median and past a patrol vehicle blocking the entrance to the parking lot where they were doing the neighborhood clean-up. Mayor Whipple cut directly to the front of line bypassing a large group of people who were waiting in line to get into the neighborhood clean-up. Once the Officer realized Mayor Whipple was not complying with verbal commands to stop and turn around the Officer walks to the rear of the vehicle to copy down the tag and then approaches Mayor Whipple and activates his body camera.
At the beginning of the video you can see the Officer is motioning for Mayor Whipple to turn around. The body camera was immediately turned on when the Officer approached Mayor Whipple. As you can hear and see in the video Mayor Whipple is immediately calling the City manager. The neighborhood clean-up was only for residents who live in the Southwest Neighborhood Association. Businesses and residents who live in the surrounding neighborhood were not allowed to dump trash. Mayor Whipple does not reside in the Southwest Neighborhood Association. We find it offensive that Mayor Whipple would attempt to deflect attention from his own inappropriate conduct by personally attacking the Officer with these false and over exaggerated accusations.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, Wichita, KS
Following the response from the local police union, the National Fraternal Order of Police weighed in on the situation surrounding Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple and a confrontation with a Wichita police officer. The response from the national group included an accusation of Whipple taking a “rules for thee, not for me” approach.
National Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Joe Gamaldi also responded, calling for Whipple to apologize.
Hey @BWhippleKS just wondering if you have apologized to the officer and community for your actions?— Joe Gamaldi (@JoeGamaldi) October 17, 2022
Pretty low to show up event you weren’t authorized to be at,then demand preferential treatment and talk down to an officer. If this is how you treat people,time to resign pal. https://t.co/L6G6MDtPiW
Copyright 2022 KWCH. All rights reserved. To report a correction or typo, please email firstname.lastname@example.org