New Topeka city manager Brent Trout reached out to the public Tuesday evening, asking residents to share input with him about what traits, abilities and skills they consider to be most important as the city hires its next police chief.
Trout said he was in the middle of the process of hiring the next chief, though he didn’t indicate how many candidates remain.
He asked residents to share their thoughts by emailing email@example.com, leaving input at a website that will go live Wednesday at topeka.org/your-next-tpd-chief or sending mail to City Manager Brent Trout at City Hall, 215 S.E. 7th, Topeka, KS 66603.
Trout also asked council members for their input. He said he planned to give the public a chance in January to meet the finalists chosen for the position, and to seek input from Topekans on which to select.
Those listening included several audience members sitting in the front row of the council chambers who had been among about 20 people who gathered in front of the Law Enforcement Center early Tuesday evening to “take a knee 4 Nique,” a symbolic gesture made as a call for transparency in the shooting death of Dominique White.
Four of those spoke before the council. One, Rose Welch, demanded the city release the footage of White’s shooting.
Welch said, “We have heard many untruths and obfuscations about what TPD can do, the DA can do, what the city manager can do, and you all pass the buck back and forth and back and forth, like a child’s game of hot potato.”
“But the buck stops here,” Welch said, motioning toward the council. “I have given each of you a copy of the organizational hierarchy of our city and as you can see and you should already know, above the police chief is the city manager and above the city manager is the city council, chairing the city council is the mayor and above the mayor and council is us. And we’re standing here today telling you to release that footage.”
Local Unitarian-Universalist pastor Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan told the council that it’s “not OK” that the public doesn’t know the names of the officers who shot White.
She said the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the police department in collective bargaining, prohibits the city from providing the names of employees who are under criminal or administrative investigation to the media.
“But the family isn’t the media,” she said.
No provision in the labor contract prohibits the city from providing the names to the family or the city council, and the council has the power and responsibility to release those names, Oglesby-Dunegan said.
After she finished speaking, governing body members — who’d been told earlier Tuesday that they wouldn’t be asked to go into executive session that night — voted 9-0 to go into executive session to discuss attorney-client privileged matters with the city’s legal department.
That session — and Tuesday’s meeting — ended at 9:53 p.m.
Oglesby-Dunegan said during the earlier gathering at the Law Enforcement Center that she wants White’s death to be included as an agenda item at a city council meeting.
“The fact that we haven’t talked about a police shooting in which somebody died and in which we have information that that person was shot in the back, that just seems worthy of some special attention,” said Oglesby-Dunegan.
White’s family and other community members have called for authorities to release body camera footage showing the incident and release the names of the two officers.
“We’d just like to see some leadership in this community step up and actually talk about the issues at hand — talk about what racial profiling looks like, talk about what good policing looks like, talk about what kind of new chief we want to have and how we are looking to have them bring more accountability and transparency, how they will relate to people of color in our community. Sure be nice to have a person of color in that position,” Oglesby-Dunegan said.
Last month, Bill Cochran was named interim Topeka police chief. The city hasn’t had a permanent chief since James Brown left Jan. 1.
Oglesby-Dunegan said they plan on protesting every Tuesday in which a council meeting is held until White’s death is addressed as an agenda item and “until they (the city) begin to take responsibility for being accountable and transparent and making plans for how we prevent future deaths and how we make this city a better place to live for all.”