WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — We have new information from our special Brady/Giglio investigation we first told you about Monday night.
KSN uncovered that not only has the number of police officers on the Brady/Giglio list grown this year, but that the ultimate decision determining if an officer is brought back to the force after committing an infraction that places him on the list all lies with one man — and it’s all in private.
That man, City Manager Robert Layton, declined our requests for interviews to be part of that story. On Thursday, he sat down with Katie Taube as we continue our KSN Investigation.
Our investigation revealed that the police chief doesn’t get to decide what officers are on his force or let go. The city, instead, uses a three-person panel for arbitration. That panel includes a union member, an arbitrator and someone from the city. While the panel recommends a course of action, the city manager makes the ultimate call.
We have been asking why this process isn’t public, and why does the city manager make these decisions with no accountability to the tax payers who pay those salaries.
“In terms of opening up our discipline process to the public, I don’t believe that will happen,” said Layton.
Public interest versus employee’s right to privacy is a tightrope walk that Layton says is at the heart of the matter.
The Wichita City Council sets the policy that leaves the city manager as the final hiring and firing authority. Included in that policy is the non-binding arbitration process for terminated police employees like the case of Brian Safris, a police officer who was fired after the city settled a case filed against the police department alleging that Safras tazed and beat a man while on duty over a handicap parking space. That settlement cost the city $325,000.
KSN learned that officer was brought back to the force this summer, even though doing so meant he was placed on the Brady/Giglio list, increasing the number of officers on that list to 19.
Robert Layton made that decision and we wanted to know how it was made.
“In the case you’ve been looking at of the detective, I took information from the arbitration panel, also the police chief, and also from legal counsel,” said Layton. “So all those factored in to my final decision on what we did with that person.”
We talked to Gordon Ramsey, the current police chief, who wasn’t in Wichita when Safras was fired but was the chief when he was re-hired. His position about having officers on the list on his force was clear:
“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,” said Chief Ramsay.
KSN cannot have access to the documents surrounding the arbitration process because the city refuses to release them saying that would violate the privacy rights of the employee, even though that employee’s salary is paid for by tax payers.
We asked Layton, “As taxpayers, it makes it questionable as to why certain decisions are being made as to why people are fired or not. Does that concern you?”
“Not really, and let’s talk about that,” said Layton. “What we’re talking about are personnel matters. And all of us, whether we work for public or private business as employees, there are a few things protected for us and one is our personnel files and information regarding our employment.
Officers with credibility issues are labeled Brady/Giglio to disclose their status because the city must disclose any credibility issues against police employees so the issues are known if criminal cases go to court.
We asked Layton, “Just playing devil’s advocate, those tax payer dollars are being used to pay an officer that can’t serve in a full capacity on the force.”
Layton responded, “But that’s your definition of full capacity. We are not going to keep them in a position where they’re being paid full time for part time work. We’re still going to put someone in a productive position.”
When asked if the city would ever consider changing its policy to make police grievance arbitrations public as other cities and states do, Layton said it is possible but not likely.
“We could probably even have a binding arbitration system here,” said Layton. “Then there are questions we’d have to talk about what Kansas law provides for in terms of privacy, but that’s hypothetical.”
Layton says it is important to note that the city does not create new positions for officers on the Brady/Giglio list, nor do they increase the number of police officers they have to offset those on the list.
The Wichita Police Department has numerous openings right now, and the department is doing a survey to figure out how many officers they need.
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