Wichita Police Chief candidates both highly qualified, but…

Both Duluth, Minnesota Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and Irving, Texas Assistant Police Chief Jeffery Spivey peformed well at last night’s public forum, held at Century II Convention Center, but Ramsay appears to be the best choice for Wichita, at least from an activist’s point of view. Ramsay’s small town, community based approach is more in line with the type of policing that Wichita needs to shift to.

Chief Gordon Ramsay, left, and City Manager Robert Layton, right.

Decades of mismanagement under Norman Williams, and most recently, Nelson Mosley, have created a rift between the department and certain segments of the community, particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Based on Ramsay’s performance at the forum, and, more importantly, his record in Duluth, the 45-year-old Chief appears to be sincere in his expressed desire to work with local organizations, rather than against them, which will be a huge step forward in rebuilding trust between officers and those they serve.

While in Wichita, Ramsay has been open to meeting with community groups, while his opponent, Spivey, flatly refused to meet with Sunflower Community Action, a local non-profit that has served as the bridge between various groups calling for police reform.

Today, we learned that Spivey is also a finalist for the Chief position in Corpus Christie, Texas, and this is concerning. The City of Wichita has already been through this process once, with two other candidates, but when City Manager Robert Layton offered the position to Joel Fitzgerald, he expressed more interest in pursuing a position in Fort Worth, where he was ultimately hired, sending the City back to the drawing board to find a chief.

Spivey, while certainly competent, comes from Irving, which is a suburb of Dallas, and he appears to have a big city policing mindset, which I believe Wichita has had enough of already.

Assistant Chief Jeffery Spivey.
Assistant Chief Jeffery Spivey.

Both candidates performed well last night, but Ramsey appeared to be the most dedicated to holding officers accountable. Spivey defended the FOP, which has been a huge obstacle towards police reform, Ramsay pointed out that the unions in his home state have more power than the unions do here in Kansas, and he expressed a willingness to take them on, if necessary.

Spivey stated very clearly that he does not believe an officer who is involved in a shooting should be automatically required to take a drug test, while Ramsay pointed out that state laws and union contracts may dictate how and when such tests are administered. Ramsay went on to mention that in Duluth, he asks all officers who involved in shootings to take a drug test, and called it a “no-brainer”.

Spivey stated that he would not budge on this issue unless he was shown compelling evidence that officers were running around drunk or high on the job. However, most people who have jobs where danger is a factor are required to take drug tests when they are injured, or when their actions injure another, and I personally do not see why officers should be treated any differently.

This is an issue that will have to be settled at the state level, through legislation which Spivey, based on his statements at the forum, would likely oppose.

Ramsay appears to be the candidate that is strongest on the issue of holding officers accountable for their actions, and the candidate who is most likely to build productive relationships with marginalized groups in this community.

City Manager Layton should proceed with caution, as it would be quite unfortunate if he offered the position to Spivey, only to learn that Spivey’s heart belongs to Texas.

This is an opinion column written by Kansas Exposed editor Mike Shatz.

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