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A Wichita citizen's review board found racist text messages by police 'disturbing'

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The recommendations follow an investigation into racist text messages by some police officers.

The city’s Citizen Review Board has made several recommendations to the Wichita Police Department and City Manager’s office following an investigation into racist text messages.

Included with the recommendations was a report detailing the texts between Wichita Police officers and other law enforcement personnel.

“The context of the messages reviewed was disturbing and unacceptable,” the report reads.

The recommendations included amending social media and conduct policies; considering a duty to intervene or a mandatory reporting requirement for unprofessional behavior; more internal training for “public confidence”; evaluating how the department can expedite conduct reviews; a review of training on Brady/Giglio issues; and a further review of the department’s discipline process.

Brady/Giglio lists include law enforcement officials who may not be deemed credible to testify at trial for bias or other behaviors.

Another recommendation included addressing officers who affiliate with or support groups that “are aligned with activities and beliefs inconsistent with public service.” In texts made public in the report, officers shared memes affiliated with Three Percenters – a far-right militia group.

Citizen Review Board member O’Dell Harris Jr. said that the recommendations are just the beginning of transparency in the department.

“I’ve said it multiple times in session,” Harris said, “one thread can unravel a whole sweater – and I think a sweater of racism, covert racism if you want to be technical, has been exposed. I do, however, still feel there is some work to be done.”

Interim Wichita Police Chief Lemuel Moore said he welcomed the recommendations.

“I look forward … in my interim role to bringing the light during the darkness that people may experience, and this is a big part of it,” Moore said.

The report followed an hours-long meeting by the Wichita City Council, which passed an ordinance change for the board. The change allows the board to make public reports and recommendations following investigations, and to receive a discipline summary of an officer or officers its reviewing.

The board said it will follow up with the department and City Manager’s office after 60 days in another public session.

The city manager’s office is finishing up its investigation of the incident and will also bring in a third party to review the culture of the department.

Copyright 2022 KMUW | NPR for Wichita. To see more, visit KMUW | NPR for Wichita.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron or email her at cameron (at) kmuw (dot) org.
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