Mayor Jeff Longwell, City Manager Robert Layton and Wichita Police Department officials on Thursday provided a progress report on recommendations stemming from a six-month organizational assessment conducted by Wichita State University.
The organizational assessment, released in a comprehensive report in February, is designed to improve public safety and relations between the Wichita Police Department and the community. The assessment offered recommendations in key areas including body cameras for officers in the field, a community advisory board, qualifications for a new police chief and community policing.
Following the retirement of Chief Norman Williams, WSU’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs conducted an assessment of the organization at the request of Layton. The report, completed in February, 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:
During a Thursday morning news conference at City Hall, 455 N. Main, City officials reported on the progress made toward implementing recommendations of the assessment.
New Police Chief
Regarding hiring a new Police Chief, Layton has hired a consultant. A candidate profile has been developed and the position has been advertised. Additionally, Layton has selected a citizen’s advisory panel to provide input through the selection process.
“The panel will help ensure the selection of the best candidate,” Layton said, “a person who will help local law enforcement evolve, improve and respond to the growing needs of our community.”
City officials said implementing body cameras is a high priority. WPD officials are leading the effort, which includes assistance from staff in the City’s Purchasing Division as well as Information Technology and Human Resources departments. Major first quarter accomplishments include:
- Researched body camera and data storage vendor options;
- Identified and presented funding source options;
- Consulted with the IT department to equip WPD facilities with the capacity to upload data; and
- Drafted comprehensive policies to regulate the use of cameras in the field.
Goals for 2nd quarter through June include:
- Finalizing relevant operational and technology policies;
- Contracting with a vendor to supply the body cameras;
- Scheduling a meeting with IT and body-worn camera vendor(s) to design how product would integrate with existing infrastructure.
“The project team is working diligently to meet milestones and overcome challenges presented with such a large effort in ground breaking technology and policies,” said Deputy Chief Hassan Ramzah.
Community Advisory Board/City Manager’s Review Board
The assessment identified a community goal to increase opportunities for meaningful input on department practices. To that end, a Community Advisory Board will be established to improve the department’s relationship with the community. A subcommittee of the Community Advisory Board will serve as the City Manager Review Board – which will hear appeals by citizens who disagree with findings of the WPD. Both boards will provide residents with a format for sharing concerns about WPD policies and programs.
A project plan has been approved and the implementation team held its first meeting on May 20. The target date for board members to be selected, trained and to begin meeting is late third quarter of this year. Following are some tasks of the project plan:
- Establish mission and goals for the new advisory board;
- Identify a process for soliciting applications from the public to identify board members who will serve on the Community Advisory Board and City Manager Review Board;
- Develop a training plan for the board members;
- Develop a process for documenting input from residents and incorporating that input into department policies and programs; and
- Identify ways to measure the effectiveness of the board after 18 months.
Community engagement meetings were conducted to obtain feedback on the assessment. And WPD Community Policing officers have attended neighborhood meetings. Following are dates of community engagement meetings:
- On March 4, the first community outreach meeting was conducted at Atwater Neighborhood Resource Center with the Wichita Independent Neighborhoods.
- On March 10, a meeting was held with the NAACP.
- On March 25, a meeting was held with Sunflower Community Action.
- And on March 28, a presentation on the assessment outcome was delivered to C.O.R.E. (Community Operations Recovery Empowerment, Inc.)
Citizens with Mental Health Issues
Mental Health First Aid Training
The WPD has set a goal to certify more than half of its officers in Mental Health First Aid. Three classes have been conducted, training a total of 72 officers since the release of the organizational assessment report.
To date, 114 officers have completed the Mental Health First Aid class. There are 235 officers scheduled to attend training by the end of 2015, resulting in a total of 350 officers trained in mental health first aid.
Crisis Intervention Training
Currently, 82 officers are certified in crisis intervention, or CIT. There are 19 officers scheduled for the weeklong Basic CIT in June, bringing the total to 101 certified officers.
Pretext Stop Policy
The WPD has a comprehensive Racial and Other Biased Based Policing policy and a Vehicle / Pedestrian Stops policy, which addresses stops, detentions, and how supervisors and officers should handle racial profiling complaints. The WPD conducted research and subsequently received recommendations from a legal consultant regarding stop, detention and search documentation. The assessment outlines tentative policy recommendations for documenting detentions on pretext and investigative stops and searches during stops.
Use of Force Policy
Regarding use of force policy, a legal consultant has recommended revisions of the department’s use of force and weapons policies. The recommendations are intended to infuse contemporary Constitutional Policing guidelines for the use of force and weapons policies and regulations. The Law Department and the WPD Executive Staff have reviewed and given tentative approval to draft policies. The Fraternal Order of Police has reviewed the drafts and offered input. Language recommendations made by department members during the in-service training session were received through May 22. Staff will review the language recommendations, make necessary modifications, submit to the Fraternal Order of Police for review, and forward to the Law Department for final approval in July.
Recruitment Process Improvement
Regarding improving recruitment efforts, a project plan has been approved and a team assembled. The first meeting was held in late May. This project will recommend programs and practices to recruit and retain a qualified and skilled police force, which also reflects the diversity of the local community.
Communications and Public Education
Regarding communication and public education needs, the assessment reviewed the department’s processes, identified areas for improvement and recommended best practices. A project plan has been approved and a project team has been meeting since late April. Key deliverables include:
- Creating a proactive educational campaign to inform the community of standard police practices and procedures, with a focus on use of force and pretext stops.
- Identifying methods and resources to provide WPD policy education to community members.
- Establishing a standard process for delivering information and education to the community when incidents occur.
- Developing a standard method for sharing successes of the department and showcasing officers who connect with community members in a positive way.