City gives green light to citizen review board

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – City council members said “yes” to creating a citizen review board Tuesday. It’s a board that will look closely at police business, whenever there is controversy.

“Body cameras have been great,” says Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. “So, we are resolving a lot of complaints simply by allowing people to come in and review the video.”

Now, Ramsay says a citizen review board is the next step in transparency.

“I do believe this is a step in involving the community more inside the police department,” explained Ramsay.

But some are saying the way the citizen review board members are picked should be changed. The city manager will pick the members.

“I think they just need an independent review board,” said Santiago Quintero. “Sometimes, I’m concerned it’s like, ‘Scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back,’ and if that’s happening you’ll hide things away. So they’re not going to let us know everything that happens? So, an independent (citizen review board) would be helpful for us.

Quintero lost his son, John Paul Quintero in Jan. 2015, after police were called because his son had a knife. A Wichita police officer fired a shot at Quintero after one of the officers believed John Paul Quintero was going after a weapon.

After investigating, the district attorney ruled the shooting justified.

But, Quintero maintains for others who want answers about police actions, a review board should be independent and not be picked by any city leaders.

He’s not alone.

Activist Mary Dean says the city needs to have an independent citizen review board.

“If city leaders are picking the board members, then this feels like… they shouldn’t be rubber stamping what police investigate,” says Dean. “Yet again, a citizen review board where people are not going to trust (all the board members) them? They’re (public) not going to believe anything that they say. Here we go again. that’s all they’re going to do is say here we go again. we need to have enough confidence in the board that is chosen to know that we can trust them… that the community can trust them.”

Chief Ramsay says trust is exactly why he wants a citizen review board.

“So, I also believe when citizens come in and see how we do our investigations and see, pull everything back and see the videos and ask the questions and understand what happened, then people will feel that there is legitimacy to the process,” said Ramsay.

The citizen review board will be composed of Wichita residents who are at least the age of 18 and a citizen of the U.S.

Those who apply will also have to pass a criminal background check and attend a citizen police academy.

The City of Wichita hopes to soon have a link to apply for the citizen review board on its website.

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