Did a Kansas Exposed story cause WPD to remove officer photos?

For years, the Wichita Police Department had photographs of officers working on each beat posted on their website. Then, one day last year, all photos of officers under the rank of captain suddenly disappeared from the site.

That day was August 25, 2014, which also happens to be the day that Kansas Exposed posted the names and photographs of the officers who have been identified in lawsuits or by witnesses as having shot and killed people in the line of duty.

As Stan Finger at the Wichita Eagle notes, the photographs were removed from the city website just hours after we published our story on the police shooters:

“Frustrated with what he saw as the Wichita Police Department’s lack of transparency in relation to the recent police shootings, local activist Mike Shatz recently posted photographs on his “Kansas Exposed” blog of the officers he claims are linked to the fatal shootings of Lanning and Collins as well as of Marquez Smart, 23, on March 10, 2012; Karen Jackson, 44, on July 10, 2012, and Icarus Randolph, 26, last July 4.

Police officials have not confirmed the accuracy of the blog post’s claims. Within hours of the officers’ photographs being posted, however, pictures of all officers below the rank of captain – including beat officers – were removed from the department’s website.

Deputy Chief John Speer said the removal of the photographs was part of the departmental review ordered by City Manager Robert Layton in the wake of Chief Norman Williams’ retirement and is not related to the blog post.

Shatz said he noticed law enforcement officials in Omaha quickly released the names of officers involved in the shooting of a robbery suspect and the accidental shooting of a “Cops” television show crew member late last month. Authorities in Kentucky also released the name of the deputy involved in a shooting last weekend.”

While the department claims that the photographs’ removal was unrelated to the story, and merely a part of the department’s “review”, the department has offered no further explanation of how the photos being taken down contributes to that review.

Deputy Chief Speer, who says that the pictures were not taken down because of our story, has since retired, and made the news last month when it was revealed that he took a call from then-City Attorney Sharon Dickgrafe, in regards to a domestic violence call involving her and her husband. According to KWCH, that report was placed into the “confidential file” and no charges were ever filed.

While the department did remove the photos from their website, Kansas Exposed downloaded all of the pictures, months prior to their removal, and we have all of the photos on file in case they are needed.

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