WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three Wichita, Kansas, police officers have been suspended after they exchanged racist, homophobic or inappropriate messages with several other law enforcement officials, according to city officials.
City Manager Robert Layton ordered that the officers be suspended for 15 days, rejecting interim police chief Lemuel Moore’s planned eight-day suspensions as too little, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Layton said the officers will need to undergo psychological exams when they return before they can be moved from desk work to regular duties.
Investigations into the messages began after The Eagle reported about them in March and noted that none of those involved had been disciplined.
“The argument that this was a private conversation is superseded by the fact that the public had obtained the conversation and it was no longer private to the individuals involved,” Moore said Thursday.
A city report issued in April criticized department leaders for not adequately disciplining police involved in the messages and mishandling their investigation of the incidents.
Investigators in Kansas found 13 Wichita police officers, three Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies and two city firefighters sent and received inappropriate text messages.
The employees suspended Thursday include a Black officer who sent a racist George Floyd meme during the protests of 2020; a white officer who forwarded the meme to a deputy; and a white officer who identified with the “Three Percenters,” an anti-government militia group connected to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Two other officers received written reprimands and must undergo sensitivity training within 45 days. They were in a text thread where SWAT team members joked about killing civilians and being “the ultimate de-escalators.”
Three other officers resigned from the department during the investigation.
Law enforcement officers’ social media posts were thrust into the spotlight across the country after a 2019 research project found officers in at least five states bashing immigrants and Muslims, promoting racist stereotypes, identifying with right-wing militia groups and, especially, glorifying police brutality.