June 24, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Calling Police in Wichita May Be Deadly Decision

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The ratio of police to officer-involved shootings in Wichita is higher than the national average, a sharp statistic garnering national attention as the officer-involved shooting of unarmed Andrew Finch continues to garner headlines.

Police shot Finch, a 28-year-old father, following a prank phone call. From California, caller Tyler Barris, said Finch was holding people hostage in his Wichita home. Barris has since been charged with involuntary manslaughter, but that won’t bring back Finch, who was guilty of answering the door unarmed when police arrived at his home.

The ratio of police to shootings in Wichita is higher than the national average.

Finch’s family filed a federal lawsuit this week against the city of Wichita and the unnamed officers who killed Finch. Barris isn’t named in the family’s lawsuit. Andrew M. Stroth, attorney for the Finch family told the Wichita paper that city leadership is attempting to place all the blame on Barris.

“But let’s be clear: the swatter did not shoot the bullet that killed Andy Finch. That was an officer working under the direction of the Wichita Police Department,” Stroth said.

Wichita PD released a segment of body cam video of the shooting. The officers are 40-50 feet away from the Finch front door, yelling at Finch to put his hands up and move slowly towards them. When he raises a hand from his side to about waist height, the officers fired. Finch was unarmed.

A Washington Post database shows that the number of officer involved shooting fatalities. There were 987 officer-involved shootings in 2017, compared with 963 in 2016. There were 995 in 2015. In half of the incidents tracked by the Post, officers shot and killed individuals who were firing their own weapons. Fewer than 10 percent of those shot by officers were unarmed. The number of officers killed in the line of duty also increased between 2015 and 2016.

In the five years between 2010 and 2015, Wichita officers were involved in 29 shootings, 15 of which resulted in deaths, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The FBI didn’t fully track officer-involved shootings until January 2017. The federal agency anticipates full reporting compliance from all law enforcement by 2019. In Wichita, however, FBI stats show Wichita police shoot one person for every 120 officers. That’s 11 times the national ratio and 12 times the Chicago ratio, the Eagle reports.

Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay assured media on Jan. 5 that the Finch shooting is being investigated thoroughly.

“At the conclusion of the criminal investigation, we will also conduct a thorough review of the incident and do everything we can to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again,” Ramsay said.

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