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City of Wichita releases third-party investigation report into police department

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Police department members expressed concern about the department’s direction, according to the report. It also described internal turmoil and distrust between management over several years.

The City of Wichita released a third-party investigative report Friday afternoon done by Jensen Hughes.

Jensen Hughes is a consulting firm that was hired by the city to conduct the investigation after racist and violent text messages between law enforcement officers were made public last year.

The firm was asked to look at several different areas within the police department and make recommendations based on its findings.

The areas included management and organization; promotions; organizational culture; code of conduct; internal affairs and discipline; citizen review boards, and the relationship between the police department, city human resources and city manager's office.

Police department members expressed concern about the department’s direction, according to the report. It also described internal turmoil and distrust between management over several years.

As part of the report, Jensen Hughes created a survey for Wichita Police employees about their workplace culture. It found that only 19% of those who responded to the survey strongly agreed or agreed with the current direction of the department.

“The current internal culture in the WPD is unhealthy, and at times toxic,” the report said.

Several organizational and structural changes for the department were also suggested as part of the report. Some of the suggestions included creating an assistant chief of police position, an annual review of the department’s operating procedures, and restoring a night detective unit.

“We heard numerous examples of crime victims and witnesses waiting days for a response from a detective,” the report said.

The report also highlighted that fewer Wichita Police officers have been applying for roles of detective or sergeant year over year – and found that higher supervisory roles within the department were not reflective of the city’s demographics.

“For the ranks of the department to be reflective of its population, WPD would need six additional persons of color and nine additional women to be promoted,” the report reads.

But it also states that leadership training is also not required for those supervisory or leadership roles.

“It does not appear the WPD has embraced the importance of leadership skills as they relate to promotions,” the report said.

“Replacing the military model of leadership development with behavioral competency development may be more effectual in leadership and agency performance.”

Several times in the report, Jensen Hughes suggested the department needed to clearly state or create policy for the department to follow, especially to address negative perceptions from employees.

The report also suggested that the city’s citizen review board that looks into citizen complaints into the police department should be more transparent in its practices and better outline its policies. The report also stated that members of the board said that the police department does not provide them with enough information or details when they review complaints.

The city also asked Jensen Hughes to analyze the relationship between the police department, human resources office and the city’s managers office, after former and current deputy chiefs alleged interference from those offices into police discipline.

The firm says to address this perception, clear lines of responsibility needed to be made during the disciplinary process.

Jensen Hughes suggested the department move forward by creating a formal strategic plan on how to implement those recommendations.

When hired by the city, new Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan said he would use the suggestions made in the report for how he would reorganize and lead the department.

The report found that those interviewed had an overall positive view of the new chief, and that they hoped conditions at the department would improve with his hiring.

“In fact, we heard positive accounts about the new chief’s approach to the role, which appears to be encouraging to officers,” the report states.

The city will provide more information about the report and how it will move forward with the recommendations at a Monday news conference.

“As mentioned earlier, organizational change as recommended in this report will not happen overnight,” the report stated.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.
Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.