BY OLIVER MORRISON
Wichita police officers Dustin Noll and Jamie Schepis pulled up carefully, a block and a half away from a suspicious house on a recent Saturday. They saw a car with tinted windows pull up.
An officer had chased two cars connected to that house in the past week.
Noll used his cellphone, rather than his radio, to call and text another officer, who was going to watch the car with them.
“High-level dope dealers will hire people to do nothing but listen to the scanners,” Schepis said.
But the patrol officer whom Noll called had to respond to a 911 call. “Not even 45 seconds,” Schepis said, before the other officer was called away.
Noll and Schepis are members of south Wichita’s Special Community Action Team (SCAT). They do proactive police work and respond to high-level crimes and don’t have to respond to every 911 call.
SCAT officers are some of the only Wichita police who have the time to sit and wait at a house like this.
Old Town is key
Patrol South, where Noll and Schepis work, like most of the Wichita Police Department, has recently had a hard time hiring enough officers.
Although South is not the most understaffed bureau, it faces an additional challenge that no other bureau does: Old Town.
Old Town has the kind of high-density living and an active nightlife that young adults across the country are flocking to.
Even though Old Town will have explosive growth, according to Jason Van Sickle, president of the Old Town Association, it could grow faster.
More than 80 percent of the young people moving in to Old Town have been men, according to Van Sickle. The main reason for that, he said, has been the ongoing perception by women that it’s not safe. So Van Sickle is turning his current building, Flats 324, into a gated community.
Old Town business owners and city officials met for eight months to figure out how to make the area feel more welcoming. But just two weeks after their last meeting, Van Sickle said, a major shooting erupted in Old Town.
OLD TOWN BUSINESS OWNERS AND CITY OFFICIALS MET FOR EIGHT MONTHS TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE THE AREA FEEL MORE WELCOMING.
In the early morning hours of March 5, officers said, they found shell casings from the shooting as far as three blocks away from the victims. No one was seriously injured because it was a relatively slow night in March. If it had been a busy Saturday night in July, hundreds of people might have been walking along those three blocks.
When Van Sickle’s committee began to share some of the recommendations, the shooting made it seem as if, instead of proactively trying to make the area safe, the city was responding aggressively to this one shooting.
This is just par for the course, according to Schepis: Every few years there is a bad incident in Old Town, and the police put on a show of strength. It’s a cycle that has been repeated over and over, he said.
And the most vexing part about it is that everybody knows how to solve the problem, according to Sgt. Roger Rundt.
EVERY ENTITY, EVERY STAKEHOLDER IN THIS WHOLE MESS, KNOWS WHAT THE SOLUTION IS. AND THEY HAVE ALL DISCUSSED IT INSIDE, OUTSIDE, BACKWARDS, THEY ALL KNOW WHAT THEY NEED TO DO. SO I MEAN IT’S NO ONE PERSON HOLDING THINGS UP OR BLOCKING THE PROCESS. IT’S JUST THAT IT’S JUST NOT GETTING DONE.
“Every entity, every stakeholder in this whole mess, knows what the solution is,” Rundt said. “And they have all discussed it inside, outside, backwards, they all know what they need to do. So I mean it’s no one person holding things up or blocking the process. It’s just that it’s just not getting done.”
There is a constant late-night crowd in Old Town, Rundt said, so Old Town should have a dedicated police unit. Instead, the city pulls in officers from all across the city, including special units like Noll and Schepis, and tries to guess when there will be unusually large crowds.
On March 5, most of the officers who were supposed to be in Old Town were out working two other major shootings.
As the bullets flew, from one block to the next, there wasn’t an officer in sight.
“We were working two shootings before Old Town closed, and we didn’t have resources,” Schepis said. “And (the shooters) saw it. They knew. They didn’t see officers down there at all.”….Continue reading
December 30, 2016, “Kansas cracks down on misbehaving cops”
The number of law enforcement officers in Kansas whose licenses are revoked each year has more than quadrupled since 2011, the result of a little-known agency that is empowered to crack down on misbehavior.
The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training, an independent agency often referred to as the Kansas CPOST, has increased the number of actions it takes from about eight a year to about 35 a year.
Problems include law enforcement officers who assaulted ex-wives, took advantage of children, showed up to work drunk, lied about internal investigations, committed road rage violence, stole confiscated money or were convicted of homicide and arson.
In one case, an officer issued a traffic ticket but then took it back after the offender contacted his wife about an affair the officer was having. In another case, a sheriff was convicted of distributing methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school.
The vast majority of officers currently employed by an agency in Kansas – more than 99.5 percent – do not face any action from CPOST in a given year.
“To me it’s a happy story, a story of professionalism,” said Gary Steed, the CPOST director. “We are contributing to the professionalism of law enforcement by maintaining a standard.”….Continue reading
Although less than 0.5 percent of Kansas officers lose their licenses every year, many of the crimes they do commit are shocking and egregious. Here is a partial list of behaviors that have caused Kansas law enforcement officers to lose their license since 2013:
▪ Pointed a rifle at a dispatcher and verbally threatened to shoot the dispatcher.
▪ Pushed his ex-girlfriend’s head into a wall. The officer then lied and said during that time he had been securing the scene of a potential suicide victim, when in fact he didn’t know what had happened to the potential suicide.
▪ Went to his ex-wife’s house while drunk, took out his gun, pushed her head down on a couch and threatened to shoot himself.
▪ Shot a gun in an empty office building, said that he saw someone with a weapon but video footage showed no one else present.
▪ Sent inappropriate texts to a woman he met during his official duties, invited her into his police car and engaged in inappropriate touching.
▪ Pepper-sprayed his mother-in-law in the face, after he claimed she had approached him in an aggressive manner and would not let him do a welfare check on his son, who was in her temporary custody pending a divorce.
▪ Attended a Halloween haunted house while intoxicated and “struck a 16-year-old role player in the mouth without provocation.” He also lied during the investigation…..Continue reading
BY OLIVER MORRISON
A little over a year ago, Dusty Edington, 21, received a notice in the mail that he owed $1,200 to a Speedy Cash in Wichita.
He had been training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for more than 150 days, so the debt didn’t make any sense. But he noticed on his account that another $200 had been charged to him two days before by PayPal.
Edington realized he’d been victimized, but he was confused about how his information was stolen. He’s careful about where he puts his information online and keeps all his records and paycheck stubs in a lockbox.
Before leaving for training, he had moved to a different apartment. Maybe, he thought, some of his mail didn’t get forwarded.
Edington had to take a day off from his military training to deal with the financial matters.
A representative from PayPal said the name on the account from which the $200 had been deposited was Justin Vanley. Police said Vanley was already being investigated. So after a day’s worth of calls, Edington was able to get his money back. And that was that.
Then, at the end of May, Vanley and 12 others were indicted on charges of running one of the largest identity theft rings that has ever been prosecuted in Kansas, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
It turned out that the group had allegedly divided their work into an illicit small business, according to the U.S. attorney, with some stealing mail, some doctoring checks, some creating false identities, some heading to the store to cash it and others selling methamphetamines. They had bought two fancy cars in excess of $100,000 and were on target to net about $3.5 million in total, according to the indictment….Continue reading
BY OLIVER MORRISON
When new Wichita police Chief Gordon Ramsay applied for the job, he promised to help the city’s officers use data better and to help expand the department’s community policing. He’s already started asking for data on houses that have had three or more police calls and is instituting weekly “Compstat” meetings, in which he looks at data with top staff members.
This emphasis on analyzing data about where and when crime tends to happen has been shown to lower crime, according to Michael Birzer, a professor of criminology at Wichita State University. Crime went down in several categories, most prominently robberies, after Ramsay implemented more-modern forms of data analysis in his previous job in Duluth, Minn.
But Ramsay acknowledged in news reports when he was applying for the Wichita job that, as an outsider coming in, some people would be nervous about changes he might bring.
So when he took part in a news conference Saturday to discuss Friday’s shooting in Old Town – one of his first high-profile acts as police chief – people were paying attention to what it might mean about the kind of chief he would be.
His response exemplified one of his main approaches to fighting crime: Look at the data to determine hotspots or potential hotspots, and deploy officers to prevent crimes. When he first came to Wichita, Ramsay said, he was told that bars’ closing time in Old Town was a “powder keg.”
Another key lever would be involving the community, he has said repeatedly. At the news conference Saturday, he again emphasized that crimes are rarely solved through police tactics alone but are largely solved with the help of witnesses.
Community policing isn’t a new strategy for Old Town, Ramsay said: Officers have routinely been deployed there when bars closed. He cited a statistic that crime has fallen by more than 270 percent since 2012.
But Ramsay made clear that community policing involves not just seeking community input but also expecting community support. A fight that erupted inside a club Friday was never reported to the police, he said, so even though officers were nearby, they weren’t able to respond as effectively as they might have.
So while asking for the support of the clubs, he also demanded that they respond. “If they choose not to cooperate, we will use every available resource to bring them into compliance, as we are not going to tolerate this going on in Old Town,” Ramsay said. “I hope this is loud and clear.”…Continue reading
December 16, 2016 “Another woman alleges sexual misconduct by former police officer”
Another woman has come forward with allegations that former Valley Center officer Thomas Delgado made sexual advances toward her when he was working as a law enforcement officer.
The woman first made the accusations in 2014 to the FBI.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told her lawyer in October of 2014 that Delgado had come to her house and tried to kiss her, and she had to forcibly push him off of her.
The woman’s lawyer, who works at a prominent local law firm, kept notes from her meetings with the woman in 2014 and 2015 and shared them with The Eagle with the woman’s permission. The lawyer’s notes say that the woman had reported Delgado’s alleged misdeeds in 2014.
The lawyer passed on this information to the FBI, who passed the information on to the Sedwick County Sheriff’s Office. The lawyer followed up in March of 2015, but no local or federal law enforcement investigators contacted her, according to the lawyer….Continue reading
April 5, 2017 “2 killed, 2 hurt in traffic accident after Oklahoma concert”
Laura Ratley used to listen to Panic! at the Disco with her two sisters everywhere they went.
She was turned on to the music by her sister Leah. They would listen to the band on their way to the mall, going out to eat or just driving around.
“When our parents divorced the music helped so much, and music meant everything to her,” Leah Ratley said Wednesday.
Laura Ratley almost never wore makeup, but she was so excited to see the band perform live in Oklahoma on Tuesday she asked her dad whether her younger sister, Alexis, who loved makeup, could get out of school early to help her.
She wanted to look really pretty, said her father, Bob Ratley.
That was the last time he saw his daughter. Laura Ratley, 20, was killed in a traffic accident on the way home from the concert Tuesday night, along with Rebecca Fulcher, 21, a student at Wichita State University.
Ryan Fulcher, Rebecca’s brother, and Leah Ratley were injured in the accident but released from the hospital Wednesday.
Laura was always a daddy’s girl, Bob Ratley said. Her other two sisters lived with her mom but she asked to live with him about six years ago.
She asked for the room across the hallway from his, and they would often stay up at night and talk to each other through their doors, he said.
At the concert a boy kept standing up on the chair in front of Leah, so Laura offered to switch seats with her sister because Laura always thought of others before herself, Leah said.
Laura and Leah, 24, had spent extra money so they could be close to the stage, and when the lead singer came out toward the crowd, Laura stood up on her seat and screamed.
“She started crying because she was so happy to see them, and she was having the time of her life,” Leah said.
She took selfies and videos. And when the concert ended, she tore off a piece of a long golden streamer and stuffed it in her purse with a handful of confetti, so she could remember the concert forever.
“I’m not at peace, but I kind of am,” Bob Ratley said.
“But … knowing she was at that concert, she felt like she was in heaven being at that concert.”