FactFinder 12: 1-on-1 with Wichita’s new police chief

For the first time, FactFinder 12 sat down with Wichita’s new police chief.
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 11:39 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - For the first time, FactFinder 12 sat down with Wichita’s new police chief.

Joseph “Joe” Sullivan comes to Wichita from Philadelphia where he retired from the local police department in 2020 as deputy commissioner. After serving the Philadelphia Police Department for more than 25 years, he moved on to work for a company that sells body armor and personal protection equipment. Sullivan also ran a charity to support families and children of fallen first responders.

A pending civil lawsuit against Wichita’s new police chief brought concerns about a perceived lack of transparency from the City of Wichita. Sitting down with FactFinder 12 investigator Hailey Tucker, Sullivan addressed the concerns and discussed his plans for the Wichita Police Department. You can read the transcript of the one-on-one interview below.

Tucker: “We talked about this a little earlier, you’ve only been here about three or four days. How have things been going?”

Sullivan: “Definitely hectic, there’s a lot for me to catch up on, but it’s also a really exciting time. A very inspiring time. I’ve spent some time with a lot of the officers, I had tacos one night, I had breakfast with a sergeant, I’m talking with as many officers as I can, getting as much insight as I can.”

Tucker: “How do you address those concerns to the public, you’re from a larger department, a larger city coming to a smaller city?”

Sullivan: “I think you just gotta give me a little bit of time, to demonstrate what I’m capable of doing, demonstrating my commitment to the City of Wichita. I mean, I’m thrilled to be here. So far, everything I’ve seen I really love this city. And I’m really excited about becoming a member of the community.” “.... Everything I did in Philadelphia positions me perfectly, all the problems that I dealt with. The changes that I made in Philadelphia, the challenges that I took on really positioned me well to move forward and do what the public wants to see me do here in Wichita.”

With the pending lawsuit, a former Philadelphia police lieutenant Sullivan supervised, a Hispanic woman, claims she was discriminated against based on her race and gender and was retaliated against for reporting it.

“Anyone can make any claim they want, proving it is a different story,” Sullivan said. “I supervised almost 5,000 people in Philadelphia, and I walked away with one pending lawsuit for which the city of Philadelphia issued a very strong statement when that did hit the media, making it clear that they support me.”

Some members of the committee in Wichita that played a key role in the city’s hiring of Sullivan said they weren’t aware of the lawsuit. Sullivan said he disclosed the information from the beginning.

Tucker: “During any of these interviews, the Zoom interviews, the in-person interviews, did the lawsuit ever come up?”

Sullivan: “No, but to be clear, in my initial interview with the recruiter, that information was disclosed and that was my responsibility, I disclosed it. When you are a police executive, lawsuits are unfortunately a professional reality. I’m really comfortable answering any questions and any of the allegations. We’ll let the process work itself out.”

Sullivan got his badge last week and said he’s ready to lead the department.

“There are a lot of good things happening here. I’m very impressed with the police officers and their desire to improve the department. I’m going to build on those pluses and I’m going to maximize them,” Sullivan said. “I’m going to make sure I tell the department’s story and make sure whether it’s good or bad, that the public is aware of what’s occurring within the department. And make sure the public has input in how I go about fixing those things that need to be fixed.”

In an October news release announcing Sullivan’s appointment, the City of Wichita said he’ll start in early December and will have an annual salary starting at $210,000.