The Wichita police department and several community members gathered in McAdams Park in north Wichita on Sunday to host the ‘First Steps Cookout.’ The cookout was created to bring local police and citizens together in a friendly setting to discuss issues effecting both citizens and police in the area and nationwide. The idea was birthed during a meeting between Chief Gordon Ramsay and leaders of Wichita’s Black Lives Matter movement. The two groups drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 people where they could enjoy free food and one-on-one conversations with law enforcement officers.
The barbecue took place instead of a protest that was planned to take place the same night. Approximately 100 to 150 officers attended the event to eat, laugh, dance, and discuss changes in Wichita police procedures with local citizens. Both civilians and officers called the event a resounding success and believe it is the first step to bringing local police closer to the community they serve. Part of the event also featured an question and answer session with Chief Ramsay where citizens asked questions and voiced their concerns.
Ramsay says that positive interactions with police are essential to be able to effectively police the neighborhood. He plans to have four more community events in the next month before the school year starts.
The biggest announcement of the night came when Ramsay announced that 100% of the officers employed by the Wichita police department would be outfitted with body cams. The cams will record every interaction between local authorities and civilians and will add an unprecedented level of transparency to police activity. Ramsay stated the footage will be particularly useful when investigating complaints against specific officers.
Wichita police took several photos of the event, which were posted to their official Facebook page, and even live streamed the event.