WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — KSN has looked into the issue of Wichita police officers currently serving the in the department who are on the Brady-Giglio list.
It’s a list of officers accused of dishonesty in their past – whether it’s stealing a beer in high school, or accusations of assault as an adult – that violate the department’s ethics policy.
That dishonesty would then affect their credibility as a government witness in court.
Officers on the Brady-Giglio list are relegated to non-community involved jobs, meaning they are no longer able to serve in positions dealing with the community or potential court investigations.
- What are Brady/Giglio disclosure requirements?
- Brady/Giglio Policy of the District Attorney, 18th Judicial District
Of the 19 officers currently on that list within the Wichita Police Department, many are misdemeanors from an officer’s past before he was hired by the department and before the list was created.
However, there are a select few on that list who have committed more serious crimes, like assault, that caused them to lose their jobs.
KSN has learned at least one of those officers has been rehired after committing an offense that placed him on the list and we want to know why.
This investigation started with Katie Taube looking into a case involving one specific Wichita police detective.
But it was that case that led to universal questions about how employee grievance arbitration is handled in the Wichita Police Department and its taxpayers who are footing the bill.
The case that led to our investigation begins in July of 2015, when the city of Wichita settled a lawsuit that accused Wichita police officer Brian Safris of beating a man over a handicapped parking spot two years ago.
The city paid the victim, Marcus McIntosh, $325,000 in the suit against Officer Safris, former police chief Norman Williams and the city of Wichita.
The suit alleged Officer Safris confronted McIntosh over parking in a handicapped parking space and used a stun gun on him before repeatedly stomping and kicking him.
We submitted a request for records in possession of the Kansas Corporation Commission under the Kansas Open Records Act, or a ‘KORA’ for existing surveillance video of the incident but that request was denied.
Officer Safris was subsequently fired but contested his firing over the incident.
However earlier this year KSN got a tip that Officer Safris was hired back on the department between June and August.
So we made another KORA request of the number of officers on the Brady-Giglio list in June and August of 2016 which confirmed that one more Wichita police officer was added to that list.
We wanted to know why Officer Safris was allowed to return to the Wichita police force.
Our investigation first took us to Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.
“I would have handled this differently had I been here,” explains Ramsay.
Chief Ramsay started working for the city of Wichita in January of 2016, after the city settled the Safris case, but before Safris was re-hired by the Wichita Police Department.
He goes on to say, “Obviously if I make the determination that someone shouldn’t be here, I don’t want them here. We wouldn’t terminate someone without just cause, but ultimately, when you have a contract and a labor environment that the chief doesn’t always have the last say.”
So who does have the last say?
Chief Ramsay went on to explain a terminated employee has the right to file a grievance challenging the department’s decision.
That challenge may lead to arbitration, during which a three-person panel decides if the termination was with cause.
“In this state, your arbitrations are not public. So that’s potentially one reason that could happen,” says Ramsay.
And that’s where we discovered the real question.
Why are police grievance arbitrations of taxpayer-paid city positions conducted privately?
There are no Kansas state laws that require it.
Other police departments across the country make those arbitrations public, including Chief Ramsay’s former employer, Duluth, Minnesota.
“I don’t know the rationale why they’re private here but because I worked where they are public, I would be fully supportive,” assures Ramsay.
Our investigation then led us to the city law department and city attorney and director of law, Jennifer Magana.
The city law department provides legal guidance for the city in many areas, including the negotiation of the agreement between the city of Wichita and the police union.
We asked, “Can you see how as I explained, just looking from the outside why a situation, making that private would create questions for someone?”
“Certainly people are interested when a personnel situation happens. That’s natural,” answered Magana.
Magana says there’s a balance of interests between the government entity wanting to be open and transparent and disclosing employee information that could be confidential.
“From a legal perspective, we want to keep the city from paying any lawsuits or penalties and in doing that there’s a balance in how we approach all decisions,” explains Magana. “The decisions are made by the elected’s and the department heads, so our role is to give guidance where appropriate.”
Magana referred us to the agreement between the city of Wichita and the police union.
According to this agreement, a terminated police union employee who files a grievance is entitled to arbitration with a three-party panel.
I spoke with the past union president Hans Asmussen who confirmed the process.
“We have a three-person panel. One is selected by the FOP, the other selected by the city and a neutral party is a professional arbitrator that’s selected from a panel provided by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services,” explains Asmussen.
We then asked, “Have they always been private?”
To which Asmussen responded, “My knowledge is it’s always been done that way, ever since we’ve had the grievance process between the FOP and the city of Wichita.”
Asmussen goes on to explain that the three-person grievance board makes a ruling and then submits it to the city manager, Robert Layton for a final decision.
At that time, the city manager has 20 days to accept, reject or amend the panel’s recommendation.
Hans tells me, since 2010, the city manager has never overturned a decision.
We requested an interview last week with Wichita City Manager Robert Layton to again find out why arbitrations are private here in Wichita, but were denied that request and have yet to hear back.
This leaves us with the conclusion that private decisions are determining whether taxpayer-paid officers remain, or are re-hired on the Wichita police force.
Decisions for which no one is accepting responsibility.
Decisions our police chief would prefer be public.
“I would like for arbitrations to be public so people can see the action government is taking to deal with employee issues. So there is no question,” explains Ramsay. “The public clearly knew [in Duluth] what actions the police chief or the city administrator took. Whereas here, that’s private.”
Taxpayer dollars are funding officers that, because of their Brady-Giglio status, cannot serve in a full capacity on the streets because their credibility is in question. This, while the Wichita police force looks for funds to hire more officers to carry out community policing.
“In this day and age, I think the public’s concerned about where their tax dollars are going and are we holding employees accountable. So yes it makes it difficult,” says Ramsay.
We still have yet to hear anything from the city administrator regarding the answers to our question asking if all employee grievance arbitrations are private and why.
You can see examples of public arbitration records here:
- Minnesota arbitration awards 2015
- Alton, IL arbitration documents
- New Jersey public arbitration documents
- Boston, MA public arbitration documents
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