Wichita police chief to review notification policies after recent kidnappings

WPD Chief Sullivan said he plans to make an official policy that school notifications be made any time a child is the victim of a serious crime.
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 8:56 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A lot of questions have been raised this past week as to why the public was not made aware of a kidnapping in east Wichita on Wednesday.

Wichita police responded to an abduction, or kidnapping call, near Harry and Woodlawn around 4:40 p.m. Wichita Public Schools officials said they were not made aware of the incident until after a second kidnapping of two children, in the same area, Thursday morning.

In a statement, Wichita Police Chief Joseph Sullivan said there is no formalized policy regarding notification of schools concerning incidents that occur off school property. He said the “informal processes did not function as intended or designed,” on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, prior to the second incident, he said EMCU investigators were in the area attempting to gather additional information on the case.

“Right now, we have an informal process of school notifications, but I plan to make an official policy that school notifications be made any time a child is the victim of a serious crime or we have information that indicates there is a concern for school safety and security. We will be working in partnership with school safety personnel to ensure that our policies accomplish the objectives of both organizations and enhance the safety and security of our children,” the chief said in his statement.

12 News personal protection expert Joe Schillaci cautions what type of information was made available on Wednesday.

Police now say at 4:41 p.m. on Wednesday, a 911 caller reported their 13-year-old daughter was walking home from school when an unknown suspect forced her into a vehicle and sexually assaulted her.

“I caution everybody to understand what that information is because it may not have been conveyed in a manner that would allow the officials to sound those bells and whistles,” Schillaci said.

The Wichita school district said in a news conference on Thursday afternoon that they were not made aware of Wednesday’s incident, until Thursday morning when the second incident had already occurred.

“In cases where a crime is committed, WPD is the lead agency and we collaborate with them on strategies like public notification,” said the district.

Irene van der Zande, the founder of Kidpower International, a national organization that advocates for children’s safety, says communication is key.

“It is very important to share information as soon as you have it, even if all you know is there was an attempted abduction or an abduction and the child escaped. You have to frame it in a positive way that empowers parents to not just give fear-based messages to kids but to actually prepare kids,” she said.