The legacy of Chief Norman Williams

WICHITA, Kansas — Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams’ retirement announcement Thursday came as a surprise for most people across Wichita, along with largely mixed emotions.

The long-time chief received widespread praise and applause from city leaders at Thursday’s press conference.

“The chief’s accomplishment and sacrifices have truly made a huge impact on our community,” said Deputy Chief Nelson Mosely, with Wichita Police.

“I remember when our community had a lot of challenges, you’re the guy we’d call late at night, in the middle of the night, to address the various issues, our communities and citizens might have,” said Mayor Carl Brewer.

“It’s hard to see good people go. On the other hand, Chief Williams has admirably served our community for nearly 40 years,” said Janet Miller, a city council member.

At one point in 2005, when the infamous serial killer known as BTK was arrested, Chief Williams’ career received national attention. While the investigation spanned more than 30 years, it was under Chief Williams’ leadership that detectives brought the case against Dennis Rader.

In 2006, Chief Williams worked to put a stop to the Crips gang. It marked the first time in Kansas history that the RICO Act was used to get gang members off the streets.

After only five years, 90 percent of the RICO defendants were sent to federal prison.

Williams’ career, however, also had its critics.

In May 2004, 21 of Chief Williams’ own officers filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against African American officers. The complaint said Chief Williams “consistently ignored complaints” about their treatment.

The chief also came under fire in 2012 for an officer-involved shooting that left a mentally ill woman dead.

Her husband said, “They killed my wife for nothing.”

In defense, Chief Williams responded at the time saying, “They are repeatedly giving her commands to drop the knife, to stop, drop the knife, as she is approaching… She tells them, ‘Shoot me, shoot me.’”

The family of the victim argued that unnecessary excessive force was used, leading to her death.

It is one of numerous officer-involved shootings that occurred under his leadership with WPD.

With word of his retirement, social action groups say they are focused on the future and the hope for change in the Wichita Police Department.

“You have now an opportunity to put another player in. It doesn’t do anything in terms of solving policy, in terms of changing the system, and that’s where the focus needs to be,” said Djuan Wash, the director of communications for Sunflower Community Action.

“I think it’s important to recognize that it is an opportunity for the community to have a conversation with Robert Layton in his choice for the next chief,” continued Wash.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton is in charge of finding Chief Williams’ replacement, along with input from city council members.

Chief Williams’ last day is expected to be September 3.

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