Wichita Police, Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office To Investigate Each Other When Crimes Occur
The Wichita Police Department and the Sedgwick County Sheriff's office plan to work together to investigate charges of officer-involved criminal conduct. Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay says the agencies will investigate each other when members of either department are accused of a crime. So, if a Wichita police officer allegedly commits a crime, the sheriff's office will conduct the investigation and vice versa.
In the past, a criminal complaint would have been assigned to each agency's own investigation department.
Ramsay said his department is evolving its communication strategy.
"When an officer has been arrested, booked or charged with a crime, we will communicate with our community and media swiftly, openly and neutrally," Ramsay said. "The idea is intended to alleviate any conflicts and conflicts of interest concerns, and bring more credibility to the investigative process."
The collaboration has been in talks for about eight weeks. Ramsay says he and Sheriff Jeff Easter planned to announce the plan later this month, but rape allegations that led to the arrest of a Wichita Police officer over the weekend jump-started the process. The officer, 31-year-old Marlon Woolcock, has been placed on paid administrative leave. The charges against Woolcock were investigated by the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office.
"While we respect everybody's right under due process under the law, I can't help but be very disturbed by the nature of these allegations and in no way should it reflect on the good people of the Wichita Police Department," Ramsay said.
Sheriff Easter says the plan will increase transparency and give another layer of credibility to investigations involving members of law enforcement.
"It's not that both departments can't do [the investigations] on their own," Easter said. "Sometimes it's the public perception."
Easter said the agreement only pertains to commissioned sheriff's deputies, not individuals working at a detention center. He said alleged criminal misconduct in a jail-type setting requires different investigative rules. Easter added that many of the complaints received in detention centers are not criminal in nature.
"We receive a lot of complaints that are false in nature," he said. "And we believe it would inundate the Wichita Police Department."
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