FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Police Shootings in Wichita

Since the 9/11 terror attacks and the ensuing wars, there has been a nationwide trend towards militarization of American police forces. In cities around the nation, officers appear to be operating under rules of engagement that might be better suited to a patrol in occupied Baghdad.

Police officers are faced with dangerous situations on a daily basis, and the majority of cases are peacefully resolved. Officers are often placed in the position of balancing their own safety against the safety of those they seek to detain. As can be found within any profession, mistakes are made. Organizations, being comprised of people, are imperfect by nature and we should expect accidents, mistakes and even outright misconduct.

The Wichita Police Department should not be judged by the mistakes, accidents or instances of misconduct that do occur. Rather, the department should be judged by how it responds to such incidents. The department should be judged by the measures taken to prevent further tragedies from taking place as well as by its willingness, or lack thereof, to act with transparency and accountability.

Having acknowledged that the Wichita Police Department is an imperfect organization comprised of imperfect officers, we must also acknowledge that the department operates within a much larger and equally imperfect system that rewards secrecy over whistle blowing. The specter of negative publicity coupled with legal liability has created a culture of silence, not just within government, but within the private sector as well.

Because information is not made available to the public, the media, or even the families of people who are fatally shot by Wichita Police officers, the community is left with nothing but unanswered questions. In seeking answers, families of the victims of police shootings and activists have been met with indifference, and in some cases, outright disrespect.

Nationwide, officer-involved shootings are on the rise, as they are in Wichita. What makes Wichita unique is the veil of secrecy surrounding the shootings. In other communities around the country, grand jury investigations into police shootings are routine, if not mandatory. Yet in Wichita, investigations are conducted under a veil of secrecy.

The department does have a listing of its standard operating procedures and policies, which is available online. Unfortunately, the section found under the heading Internal Investigations, labeled Officer-Related Incidents, is not available to the public. At the very least, are we not entitled to know the rules that dictate how such cases are handled?

Our officers are armed with increasingly higher tech weaponry and seem to be receiving training similar to that of our soldiers who patrol streets in war zones. Local combat veteran and anti-war activist Ethan McCord describes the training he received very clearly: “We trained daily in the Army to instinctively fire our weapons. They called this muscle memory.”

McCord is well-known for having spoken out against excessive use of force by the military, within his own former unit. The problems were not only found within the misconduct of individual soldiers, but also within the training our soldiers have received. I wonder how many of our Wichita Police officers have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, where soldiers are taught to shoot first and ask questions later, as a survival method. Could any of our officers be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Could this have been in a factor in any of the recent shootings?

When a Wichita Police officer fires his or her weapon in the line of duty, the citizens of Wichita have a right to know the exact circumstances surrounding the situation. The families of such victims have a right to be treated like the families of any other victims. Just imagine if it were your son, your grandmother, your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your aunt, your daughter, your cousin. You would want the truth, and you would expect to be treated with the utmost respect at all times.

Due to the lack of transparency surrounding officer-involved shootings in Wichita, we are left to speculate over the facts of these cases. When the department refuses to address blatant contradictions in their accounting of events, the situation is compounded by a growing mistrust of the police in general, which endangers the lives of our officers and makes their jobs exponentially more difficult.

When a life is lost, we need the highest level of transparency, but we are receiving the lowest. The department does not reveal the names of the officers involved in police shootings but they do state that an officer who shoots a citizen does not return to active patrol until the investigation is concluded. We would ask you to consider requiring a grand jury trial for these shootings.

Mike Shatz is an activist in Wichita, Kansas.  We have been investigating a series of police shootings at the request of the families of the victims.  This article is adapted from a speech was read last week on 9/11 to the Wichita city council.  

 

More articles by:
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail