Kan. firefighter on leave as police re-examine inappropriate messages

The common denominator among most of the people investigated is the Wichita PD's SWAT team, which includes paramedics with the fire department

Michael Stavola
The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA, Kan. — A Wichita firefighter was put on administrative leave on April 22 after police re-examined inappropriate messages sent by members of the SWAT team following an Eagle story.

Fire Chief Tammy Snow said she was notified by police on April 22 that a fire employee was involved in the inappropriate messages and placed that person on paid administrative leave the same day. It's standard to put people on administrative leave until the investigation is completed, she said. Administrative leave during an investigation is essentially a suspension.

It isn't publicly known what message or messages led to this person being put on leave.

The Eagle first reported in March that Wichita police handed out light punishments to roughly a dozen SWAT team members who sent racist, homophobic and inappropriate messages, including being blasé about shooting people. The only person who was suspended was one who called former chief Gordon Ramsay a tool.

It's the second person who has been investigated after police re-examined the case, following The Eagle's story. The first was a Black officer who allegedly sent a photoshopped image showing a naked Black man sitting on the head of George Floyd, who was murdered by an officer in Minneapolis.

Interim police chief Lem Moore has criticized the lack of punishment and thoroughness of the investigation done under Ramsay.

Moore became interim chief on March 1. The inappropriate messages were first found in April 2021, when police searched the phone of a Sedgwick County deputy on an unrelated case.

"We are doing our due diligence to make sure that every aspect of it is covered," Moore said. "I take this very serious and I'm dedicated to being thorough."

Moore didn't know when investigators would finish going through the messages. He previously said there were 10,000-plus messages. Some of the inappropriate messages date back to 2015.

The common denominator between most of the people investigated has been the SWAT team.

The Wichita Police Department's SWAT team has deputies from the sheriff's office and has had paramedics from the Wichita Fire Department.

The inappropriate messages and WPD's handling of the case led to City Manager Robert Layton announcing internal and third-party investigations. The internal investigation, completed last week, criticized Ramsay and deputy chiefs Chester Pinkston and Jose Salcido for how the case was handled.

The city is still in the process of hiring a third party to review department culture, policies and disciplinary procedures. The third party will also look at best practices of police citizen's review boards — the internal committee recommended greater oversight of complaints against officers.

Moore is also still weighing any additional discipline for the officers or deputy chiefs. He plans to have a decision in a couple of weeks, though it's unclear if that decision will be made public.


(c)2022 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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