Wichita police respond to city report on handling of text message investigation
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - An internal review organized by the City of Wichita said the Wichita Police Department did not use appropriate discipline after investigating a series of inappropriate and racist text messages between officers.
City Manager Robert Layton formed a committee to look into the department’s handling of the text messages. Its report said former Chief Gordon Ramsay and his two deputy chiefs, Chester Pinkston and Jose Salcido, “Failed to exercise leadership at a critical time and adequately address officer misconduct.”
“They talked about a cultural assessment being necessary for the department,” Layton said. “They talked about a review of the disciplinary process, talked about recommendations for bias-free policing, and how we hold our employees accountable in the police department.”
The text messages in question included racial slurs, homophobic comments, and a meme of George Floyd, the Black man who died while being held down by a white officer in Minneapolis.
The majority of the texts were sent between May 2018 and June 2021. The report said WPD started investigating them in June after finding out about the messages through a separate investigation into a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Sergeant who is also involved.
Interim Chief Lemuel Moore responded to the report Thursday at a press conference. Moore said he will use the information in this report and another completed by the Citizens Review Board to determine his next steps.
“It's going to be up to me to make the determination of what discipline will end up being,” Moore said. “I will, you know, take everything into consideration. At this point in time, I can't discuss personnel issues, because it is under investigation by me.”
The city is now calling for a third party independent investigation into WPD’s culture, policies and disciplinary procedures. The report also says the police department should provide more training and get rid of officers that demonstrate a bias.
“We're not looking for a checklist that says if you do these four trainings, everything's going to be better,” Layton said. “This is going to be… talking about the culture of the department, and it's talking about ongoing improvement, and how we move forward in a dynamic way.”
The report said the committee found no evidence of a cover-up from the police department. All the officers involved are still on staff and received disciplinary measures including “coaching and mentoring.”