WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – With protests around the country recently that turned violent, like Dallas where officers were killed, Wichita police have been working a plan for large-scale protests for at least a couple of weeks.
The plan includes pulling up to 150 officers to mobilize for a major event.
“It depends on the scale of the protest, it depends on how many folks are going to be present,” explains Wichita Police Captain Brian White. “So, with a smaller-scale protest, sometimes we don’t even show up when there’s really no need for us. As you begin to ramp-up from that we may just be an observer and watch. And then, when you have large-scale protests, yeah, you’ll have to allocate resources specifically for that event and prepare for that event.”
White says the department has been talking to the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s department, Kansas Highway Patrol and other agencies that could come in and help out.
KSN asked where the money would come from to put up to 150 officers on one event.
Is the department prepared to pay overtime to a lot of officers? “We’re prepared to. Yes,” says Captain White. “Well, you know, we are tracking the money and there has to be some flexibility there. We have to be prepared for pretty much anything, and we’ve set those plans into place.”
Other plans include riot gear that Captain White says it always ready to go. The police helicopter is part of the plan. Another part of the plan is communications and intel.
“Many organizations work with law enforcement to plan their event so we can have an idea of how many people they are expecting, where they plan to protest. It’s not uncommon for folks to communicate with us about their event so we can help them because they are also worried about counter protestors,” explains White. “Sometimes they may not want to communicate with us but it’s important for us to gather as much information as we can about what it is they are expecting to do. You know, when you are planning a protest, you are asking people to come and there is information out there and we can do intel that way.”
A balancing act, to be sure. But Captain White says the overall plan is to make sure the department is running like it normally would any day of the week.
White says the department has 638 officers total on the force right now. And, he says, they have a plan to make sure there are enough officers on the streets to keep the peace like they would on any given day.
“People have a right to assemble and protest so you want to make sure you are protecting the folks that want to have a voice, so that’s an important priority,” says Wichita Police Captain Brian White. “But you have to balance that with how the community is safe in relation to those protests. So it’s a balancing act with the other people in the community.”
With the events recently in Dallas where officers were shot and killed at a protest, officers say they are training for that as well. And, while White would not get into specifics on what else they are doing for crowd control, he says officers are taking the events at other protests across the country very seriously.
“When events like this happen, you are introspective and you think about your career, but, in the end it really doesn’t change your fortitude. You’re still, I’m still… the officers and the people who I work with are still committed to this community. You know, you talk to your family about it, you know they are going to be concerned. Your friends are going to be concerned,” says Captain White. “I’ve had friends hurt. I have had a friend killed. So I’ve been down this road before. So I’ve thought it through.”