Wichita Police Department (WPD) officials on Thursday provided a progress report on the implementation of recommendations stemming from the organizational assessment conducted by Wichita State University in 2014-2015.
The organizational assessment, released in a comprehensive report in February 2015, is designed to improve relations between the Wichita Police Department and the community in light of officer-involved shootings locally and nationally. The assessment offered recommendations in key areas including body cameras, a community advisory board, qualifications for the new police chief and community policing. Following is a letter from Police Chief Gordon Ramsay:
In response to the community’s concerns regarding the Wichita Police Department’s relationship with the broader community, WSU’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs was engaged to do a review of the entire organization as well as an outreach to the community. The resulting report, completed in February of 2015, included more than 50 recommendations, which were grouped into more than 20 projects, ranging from operational improvements to use of force to community policing and relationship building. The full report can be accessed on www.wichita.gov or via the direct links:
The Wichita Police Department continues its commitment to build the public’s trust. Today, I want to report on the progress we’ve made toward implementing recommendations of the organizational assessment.
Body cameras are fully implemented and consistently worn by all 425 officers while on patrol throughout the City. Twenty-seven complaints have been resolved using body worn cameras in 2016.
Community Advisory Board/City Manager’s Review Board
Work is steadily progressing on a Citizen’s Review Board of police complaints. We are currently reviewing other city’s review boards and will build what will work best for Wichita. The timeline for structuring and selecting the board is the end of 2016. Some key considerations include number of participants, level of independence, and open records laws.
Citizens with Mental Health Issues
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training
WPD engaged several community partners such as Sedgwick County Crisis Council and COMCARE of Sedgwick County to provide Crisis Intervention Training to officers. Currently, 114 officers are certified in crisis intervention.
Over the past year and a half, WPD has been training its officers in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). To date, 520 officers have successfully completed the MHFA class. There are 110 officers scheduled to attend training by the end of 2016, resulting in 100% of officers trained. In addition, WPD has taken this a step further and decided to train all employees including civilian employees in MHFA due to their daily contact with citizens who might be in a crisis situation. We have currently trained 63 non-commissioned and have 106 signed up to take the class by the end of the year.
Partnership with NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)
An officer has been assigned as a liaison to local the chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill). This officer is working closely with NAMI to coordinate and improve police response to those in crisis. This relationship is another way for WPD to connect in important ways with our community partners.
Use of Force Policy
Use of force policies are in their final revision stage and will be implemented prior to the end of the year. Revisions will reflect national best practices and are at the forefront of constitutional policing which is a cornerstone to community policing. Constitutional policing is the practice of identifying and defining policies and practices that truly advance the broad constitutional goals of protecting everyone’s rights and providing equal protection under the law.
Communications, Public Education and Community Outreach
A team was created to review the requirements and skill sets needed to improve communication with the community and enhance public education. The primary recommendation of a full-time dedicated Public Information Officer was implemented. Sergeant Nichelle Woodrow, is now the WPD Public Information Officer. Communication and education has also been improved with the addition of Officer Charley Davidson who is the Social media/webmaster resource. Following is a list of major accomplishments thus far:
- “What to do if” video series on YouTube channel to educate the community;
ü Recently released “What to do if stopped by police”
ü Coming soon, “What to do if stopped with a carry concealed weapon”
- “Catching up with the Chief” to inform the public of his vision and strategy for the Department;
- Spanish Facebook Page;
- Facebook Live on WPD Facebook page;
- Chief’s Hispanic Advisory Board;
- Spanish news briefings and media liaison;
- Hispanic liaison officer;
- Implementation of NextDoor to connect neighbors;
- Chief’s Blog;
- Liaisons assigned to LGBT community; and
- Facebook live of morning news briefings and other special events.
In terms of community outreach, Chief Ramsay has attended 50 neighborhood meetings. He sponsored six neighborhood cookouts, where residents were provided the opportunity to meet and talk to officers who serve their area.
The police department is always seeking opportunities to have positive, non-enforcement contact with our residents to further build relationships with those we serve.
Intelligence Led Policing
The recommendation to enhance tools to assist law enforcement with crime prevention and strategic placement of officers is a top priority for the department. A grant has been applied for from the Bureau of Justice Assistance: Technology Innovation in Police Services (TIPS) to assist with the purchase and implementation of crime analysis software. A request for proposal was issued and several proposals were received. There are two final candidates.
The department also initiated a Compstat program that uses a dynamic approach to crime reduction, quality of life improvement and resource management. Management examines statistics and crime trends, then targets the individuals and locations where crime is occurring.
Workload & Staffing
The department is fully staffed due to a slow-down in retirements and resignations. A July recruit class of 25 officers brings us to the highest staffing level since 2009. The Department has contracted with an expert consulting agency, Matrix, to conduct a comprehensive review of workload and staffing. Recommendations are due by the end of 2016.
Discipline Process Improvement
Extensive research was conducted on police department discipline models across the country. An innovative model of education-based discipline (EBD) was found in the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department (LASD). EBD is based on the philosophy which moves away from a punitive model and towards a behavior change. A representative from the LASD will present the EBD model to Wichita in the near future.
One of the most frequent complaints in neighborhoods is traffic related. Planning to re-centralize the traffic unit is in progress. We are currently reviewing supervisory and space logistics. A centralized traffic unit would focus on decreasing traffic crashes and neighborhood safety.