Regarding recent Wichita Police Department community meetings, Interim Police Chief Nelson Mosley provided highlights from the following statement at the Wednesday morning Public Safety Briefing at City Hall, 455 N. Main. His comments addressed body cameras, crisis intervention training, an independent review board, community policing and an ongoing organizational assessment:
Dear City of Wichita Residents:
At the No Ferguson Here community forum on August 28, 2014, at East High School, Wichita residents expressed their concerns about the Wichita Police Department’s relationship with the broader community. To discuss those concerns at greater length, Mayor Carl Brewer, Council Member Lavonta Williams, City Manager Robert Layton, and Interim Police Chief Nelson Mosley met with Wichita Branch NAACP President Kenya Cox, Pastor Junius Dotson, of St. Mark United Methodist Church, Pastor Kevass Harding, of Dellrose United Methodist Church, and Kansas African-American Museum Executive Director Mark McCormick on September 22, 2014. The conversation centered on the four main themes that emerged at the community forum: the implementation of body cameras, crisis intervention training, the creation of an independent review board, and community policing strategies.
The Wichita Police Department continues that discussion in this letter by outlining our ongoing efforts to address these concerns and to build the public’s trust in our work.
Wichita will be one of the first cities of its size to require every officer to wear a body camera. To accomplish this, we need to purchase 450 cameras to supplement the 60 cameras already deployed in the field. We have researched vendors to supply the cameras, estimated the cost of hiring support clerks to manage the new technology and resulting data, and begun to develop comprehensive policies to regulate the use of cameras in the field. We expect to identify a funding source by November 30, 2014 and fully implement the cameras by December 31, 2015, at a cost of approximately $1.5 million for the cameras, new staff, maintenance, and data storage. An annual operating cost is still being determined.
To successfully deploy the body cameras, we need to manage a host of moving parts, some of which are outlined in the summary of our plan and timeline below. Please note that each phase will be gradually rolled out and that phases will often be simultaneously executed.
Summary of Body Camera Implementation Plan and Timeline
Phase 1: Research and Planning – Target Date of Completion: February 28, 2015
- Research body camera and data storage vendor options
- Identify a funding source from within the current operating budget
- Develop relevant operational and technology policies
- Consult with the IT department to equip WPD facilities with the capacity to upload data
Phase 2: Purchasing – June 30, 2015
- Contract with a vendor to supply the body cameras
- Contract with a vendor to store data
- Hire support clerks to maintain the cameras and manage their data
- Receive the body cameras from the vendor
Phase 3: Training and Preparation – October 31, 2015
- Train officers to properly operate cameras according to specifications and WPD policies
- Train support clerks to provide technical support and maintain equipment and resulting data
- Prepare stations to store cameras and upload data
Phase 4: Deployment – December 31, 2015
- Disseminate information to the community about the body cameras’ features and policies
- Phased bureau-by-bureau rollout
- Rollout to SWAT team and specialty bureaus
Our timeline is based on realistic yet very favorable circumstances. There a lot of variables, expected and unexpected, that we must consider, so we appreciate your patience and continued support as we work through this process and any challenges that might arise. One such challenge could be the vendor's ability to supply all 450 body cameras in a single shipment. Due to a higher demand for law enforcement-grade body cameras across the country, the selected vendor might not have all of the cameras in stock initially and would therefore need additional time to produce the full order. If this were the case, the start of our training and deployment phases could be delayed.
The FOP’s Stance
Despite some reports to the contrary, the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents WPD’s officers, detectives, and sergeants, supports the implementation of body cameras for officers in the field to protect both the officers and the public from inappropriate conduct.
“Body cameras are a silent witness to the interaction between officers and residents,” FOP President Paul Zamorano said. “They would help protect the public from police misconduct and protect the officers from false allegations, while also providing invaluable information when there are conflicting accounts of an officer’s actions during a call.”
Crisis Intervention Training
Since 2012, all police recruits have received a four-hour crisis intervention training (CIT) to learn how to safely interact with residents who may suffer from mental illness or other mental health concerns. Recruits also receive training in crisis management, behavior management, and safe interactions with special populations, veterans, and people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These trainings expose recruits to a variety of calls they could receive that require specialized knowledge and training to answer.
Once recruits graduate from police academy, they become eligible to attend more comprehensive crisis intervention training courses. Each year, the Sedgwick County CIT Council hosts a 40-hour basic course with 10-15 spots reserved for WPD. The CIT Council also hosts an 8-hour advanced training course that previously trained officers can attend based on availability. The basic course’s curriculum has remained consistent to provide officers with the foundational information needed to make appropriate decisions in the field, while the advanced course’s curriculum is regularly updated to cover the latest issues and trends. Certification is granted upon completion of the basic course. Currently, 89 of the 617 officers and supervisors are trained and certified in crisis intervention.
When we receive calls involving a person who may be suffering from mental health issues, a certified crisis intervention officer may be dispatched, if available. Because certified officers hold the same responsibilities as any other officer in the field, they may not able to respond immediately. To improve service delivery to mental health consumers and their families, we plan to provide every officer with Mental Health First Aid training, in partnership with the Sedgwick County CIT Council and COMCARE of Sedgwick County. We will also continue to encourage and support police personnel who enroll in and successfully complete the 40-hour Basic CIT course and/or the Advanced course.
Following an officer-involved shooting, WPD works to be transparent, given the specific circumstances of the event and the information that can be confirmed by the department according to policies of the investigation. Every event is unique, but we are striving to increase our communication with the families of those affected by officer-involved shootings and to provide more comprehensive information about the investigation process that follows.
Independent Review Board
The Wichita Police Department understands residents’ desire to trust the system that reviews officer-involved shootings and allegations of misconduct. To address this concern, City and Wichita State University staff are reviewing a number of replacement options for the existing City Manager’s Review Board. One or more recommendations—informed by residents’ input, our governmental structure, and research on successful boards and best practices in comparable communities—will be included in WPD’s organizational assessment. The result will be a new entity that is unique to and the best fit for our city.
Community policing in Wichita has evolved over the past 20 years. In 1994, few officers had heard of community policing. Today, all of our officers are trained in this strategy, which promotes the development of proactive and trusting partnerships with residents in the hope of effectively and creatively solving crime and other public safety concerns. Moving forward, we plan to renew, through training, every employee’s understanding of community policing principles and fair and impartial policing practices. We want community policing practices to touch every aspect of our operations and interactions with the public. Exactly how it will look in the future will depend in large part on the results of the current organizational assessment, but officers will continue to attend community meetings and share resources with residents based on their needs. One example of a successful and valuable community policing effort is our Homeless Outreach Team. The HOT Team responds to 911 calls involving homeless persons and diverts them to social service agencies and shelters instead of jail, when possible.
The key to successful community policing is the active involvement and engagement of both the police and residents to share concerns, strategies, and solutions to help Wichita become the safest, healthiest, and best community possible. Without either partner, the results would fall short and as a community, so would we.
As mentioned above, a comprehensive review of the Wichita Police Department is underway. This assessment will identify the department’s strengths and opportunities for improvement, create a blueprint for the department’s future, and establish criteria for selecting the next police chief. It will focus on current operational policies and procedures, organizational structure, community and employee relations, safety and training programs, community policing practices, use of technology, communication and engagement activities, and interagency relations. It is expected to be completed by December 31, 2014.
In addition to researching best practices in comparable communities across the country, we have met or intend to meet with representatives of the following internal groups and external organizations:
- WPD Officers (all shifts)
- WPD Lieutenants
- WPD Captains
- WPD Animal Control
- WPD Noncommissioned Personnel
- City of Wichita Finance Department
- City of Wichita Housing and Community Services Department
- City of Wichita Human Resources Department
- City of Wichita Law Department
- City of Wichita Municipal Court
- City of Wichita Department Directors
- City of Wichita Engineering Division
- City of Wichita Office of Community Engagement
- City of Wichita Citizen Academy Board
- District Attorney’s Office
- Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office
- Sedgwick County Chiefs Association
- USD 259 administration and students
- Governor’s Task Force on Racial Profiling
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sedgwick County
- Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas
- Catholic Charities
- Greater Wichita Ministerial League
- Greater Wichita YMCA
- Justice Keepers of Wichita
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Old Town Association
- Service Employees International Union
- Speak Out Kansas
- Sunflower Community Action
- Wichita Bar Association
- Wichita Branch NAACP
- Wichita Children’s Home
- Wichita Crime Commission
- Wichita Downtown Development Corporation
- Neighborhood associations
- Additional groups, as necessary
This effort has been coordinated by the City Manager’s Office, the Wichita Police Department, the City’s Law Department and Project Management Office, the Center for Urban Studies at Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs, and WSU Criminal Justice faculty.
This letter was meant to serve as a status report of the Wichita Police Department’s response to residents’ questions, concerns, and suggestions for improvement following the Aug. 28th community forum. We would like to continue this discussion at another public meeting that will be announced soon. All Wichita residents are invited to attend and share their ideas for improving the community-police relationship and moving our city forward.
Nelson Mosley, Interim Police Chief
Wichita Police Department