WICHITA, Kansas – The situation in Ferguson, Mo. is nearly 400 miles from Wichita, but a many residents have felt the tension in our own communities.
The racial unrest after an unarmed teenager was killed by a police officer was everywhere, from television, to social media, and on the web.
The broad exposure is why Wichita community members held a public meeting with police and city leaders tonight.
Leaders from the police department city and faith communities are expected to take part in the meeting with the public at 6:30p.m.
Three weeks after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, there has been night after night of unrest as people have grown frustrated with law enforcement there.
Organizers say that tonight’s discussion was about ways to ensure what happened there will not happen here in Wichita.
“What we’re trying to do is start the dialogue of addressing whatever the issues are for the city of Wichita itself to ensure that we don’t have a Ferguson or something of that nature,” Mayor Carl Brewer said.
The memories of unrest in Ferguson are still fresh for hundreds of residents here who are demanding greater transparency and accountability from Wichita police.
“Officers go back to work without the investigation being done, and in the meantime, these people they have killed are not coming back, so you know lives are ruined here, so these are conversations that need to be had and we need to place a value on these lives,” Ida Allen, the sister of a man shot by Wichita police, said.
Allen’s brother was Icarus Randolph, who was shot to death by Wichita police on the 4th of July, and she’s still looking for answers.
“It’s not to fight with the police, but it’s more of a discussion in dealing with transparency, and how do we communicate with our police department,” said the Rev. Kevass Harding of Dellrose United Methodist Church, one of the organizers of Thursday’s meeting.
With the police department going through a management transition as it searches for a replacement for the outgoing chief, residents say it’s critical to have an open channel with law enforcement.
Residents urged leaders to push for giving subpoena power to citizen review boards, and putting body cameras on each Wichita police officer.
The estimated cost of that is $1.2 million, city manager Robert Layton said, but Brewer is hoping that funding can be found soon.
“Everything falls within the city manager so he can find the funding from that standpoint,” Brewer said. “We do have a commitment that we are going to try to get this implemented, get it done by the end of the year.”
Community members pushed to give subpoena power to citizen review boards and urged city leaders to approve body cameras for every Wichita police officer.