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Task force formed after teen's death recommends changes to Wichita Police, other agencies

KMUW/File Photo
Sedgwick County's Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center

Cedric Lofton, 17, died last year while in custody at the county's juvenile intake facility.

A task force reviewing the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton says officers at the Sedgwick County juvenile intake facility should change their use of force policy to limit the use of the prone position.

The task force on Monday finalized its recommendations to various government agencies, including the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County 911 Emergency Communications.

Key recommendations include an audit of the state’s “stand your ground laws,” additional training for corrections and Wichita Police officers, and funding a 24-hour mental health response unit.

Lofton was killed while in custody in September 2021 at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC). While at the facility, he was restrained facedown in the prone position for almost 45 minutes. He lost consciousness and died two days later.

The task force began meeting in February after Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced there would be no criminal charges in what his office called a homicide. Bennett cited the state’s “Stand Your Ground” laws in his decision.

City Council member Brandon Johnson said city and county staff are working to review the suggestions.

“This was a tragedy that should not have happened,” he said.

The city and county will report back on any changes implemented after the first 90 days. Proposed changes requiring budget allocations will need to be worked out during the city and county’s respective budgeting processes.

The Sedgwick County Commission and Wichita City Council will also decide which state-level recommendations to include in their legislative platforms for 2023.

Marquetta Atkins, a member of the task force and executive director of Destination Innovation, said other young people in the community have been “absolutely tormented” about what happened to Lofton.

“They’re looking at what happens if they’re in a mental crisis,” she said.

“Will they be held accountable for their own mental breakdown, especially coming out of this pandemic and everything that these young people are going through?”

Other recommendations include:

  • Creating a 911 community advisory board to oversee the county’s emergency communications by December 
  • Addressing high turnover rates at county 911 by increasing pay, benefits and diversity in hiring
  • Requiring a nursing staff member to be present at JIAC 24/7
  • Establishing a “calming room” at JIAC to allow distressed youth to be safely left alone without restraints
  • Fully funding evidence-based prevention and early intervention programs for youth and families before youth are placed in the foster care system
  • Formalizing standard procedures so both the child-placing agency and case management providers are legally responsible for the foster children in their care

Read a draft of the task force’s recommendations here.

Sedgwick County plans to finalize the recommendations and publish them on the task force section of its website.

Daniel Caudill is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. He was a reporter, photographer and digital content manager for The Derby Informer and an editor and reporter for The Sunflower. In the spring of 2020, Daniel helped cover the legislative session in Topeka as an intern for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @CaudillKMUW.