Mayor Brewer and members of the council,
I return to you to again request that measures be taken to form a new citizens’ review board with subpoena power, comprised of members not appointed by the city, to investigate incidents of alleged police brutality.
Last month’s tear gas incident in Old Town highlights the need for this independent panel. The police department, by all indications, was not going to disclose the tear gas incident to the media.
The department was only forced to make a statement about the incident, several days later, after the media was tipped off and began asking questions. The department’s official statements were factually incorrect, misleading and were designed to downplay the situation.
One police official actually stated, “It’s not like the Old Town area was blanketed in a fog of tear gas.”
Then the video footage was released. The department clearly did not expect this footage to be made available to the public, because we can all very clearly see the foggy blanket of tear gas that covered the only populated area of Old Town, on that Thanksgiving night.
We can also clearly see approximately 1,000 bystanders chaotically fleeing the area, and running back into the club, creating a stampede, in which several people were trampled.
The department has justified this act, citing several small disturbances throughout the night, and a need to safely disperse the crowd. One of those disturbances did result in at least one person being injured.
However, after watching the video footage from all angles, two things become abundantly clear. The vast majority of the people in the crowd were dispersing, and, regardless of what the department may say, we can all see that the vast majority of the people leaving the club, and working in the club, were much safer prior to the tear gas.
What the police department did here was quite similar to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. And yet the department maintains that this was a safe and effective way to disperse the crowd.
This incident is part of a much larger problem within the department, regarding transparency and accountability, especially in regards to the policing of Old Town and the overall subject of police misconduct.
As a member of the Occupy movement, I adhere to certain principles. Some of those principles are outlined in the introduction to the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. I would like to share that introduction with you now, so that you may have a better understanding of who I am and why I am here:
“As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write, so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality, that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individual to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors.”
Personally, my goal as an activist is to provide political leverage to those people who cannot afford to buy it. We will continue to seek justice until we are satisfied that an effective infrastructure is in place to ensure that future incidents of excessive force by the Wichita Police Department are addressed in a transparent manner.
In closing, we again ask the City Council to take action and lay the groundwork for a new citizens’ review panel, with subpoena power, to investigate allegations of misconduct and excessive force by Wichita police officers. Thank you.