Wichita Police Department under investigation for racist text messages
City Manager Robert Layton said he was not made aware of the situation until late last month.
City Manager Robert Layton said his office is conducting an investigation of the Wichita Police Department following media reports of officers sharing racist memes online, as well as talking about shooting people.
The investigation also will review whether appropriate disciplinary actions were taken against the officers involved.
A white officer who shared a racist meme about George Floyd’s murder still works for the department, according to The Wichita Eagle. The Eagle initially reported on the racist memes.
Floyd, who was Black, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. His death sparked protests across the country, including in Wichita.
Layton said an outside group will also review the department's policies and culture over the next two weeks.
“It’s not just this incident, but it’s also to make sure we have the trust of the public in terms of the work of the department,” Layton said.
Layton said he was not made aware of the situation until late last month.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said he also was not made aware of the situation, which can jeopardize several cases the officers testified in.
Federal law requires attorneys to disclose credibility issues – which includes biases toward groups of people.
The Wichita City Council went into executive session during its meeting Tuesday to question Layton on why it was not made aware of the situation, as well as the DA’s office.
Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said he was blindsided by the news of officers sharing the racist memes.
“I’m disappointed, and I’m outraged,” Whipple said. “We should not be tolerating this type of behavior from any employees in our city.”
The city recently launched a search for a new police chief following the departure of Gordon Ramsay, who returned to Minnesota after more than five years as chief.
Three Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputies were also involved in sharing inappropriate memes.
Sheriff Jeff Easter addressed media reports in a video posted to YouTube Tuesday.
All are no longer with the department. Easter said two of the employees chose to retire after they were suspended. Another employee was already suspended due to a domestic violence investigation. Easter said the officer resigned after receiving notice of an investigation into the memes.
After the incident, sheriff’s office employees went through additional training including de-escalation and duty to intervene. Supervisors received separate additional training.
Easter also said the office attempted to schedule cultural awareness trainings, but the trainings were canceled due to COVID-19 issues, but will become mandatory trainings in 2022.