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Citizen comments on next Topeka Police Department Chief 

Topeka City Manager Brent Trout is continuing his search for the next Topeka Police Chief. On December 5th, Mr. Trout announced a website and email address where citizens could send him their comments about what qualities they would like to see in the next police chief. Mr. Trout has reviewed all of these comments and has had staff compile the comments to be released to the public. 

“The people of Topeka provided some very thoughtful and constructive comments about what they want to see in their next police chief,” said City Manager Brent Trout. “Reading through all the comments has helped me to understand the community’s desires for the next police chief.” 

Many respondents are concerned with the police chief as an extension of the police department’s priorities as a whole. Those comments are included along with the comments on the police chief’s individual character traits. 

The hiring source of the new police chief was a common topic with some people wanting to see an outside the force hire and others preferring an internal hire. The handling of specific criminal issues, including drug activity and gang activity were two of the biggest concerns from the comments. Police accountability, communication with the public and transparency were highlighted as something that citizens wanted to see more of. Open communication between the police chief and citizens was highlighted as something that citizens would like to have. Diversity of the police force was the last concern; citizens want to see a police force that looks like the population of Topeka. 

An appendix is included with more detailed information from citizen’s responses about what they want to see in their next police chief. 

Appendix A 

Topeka Police Department Police Chief Search: Public Comment

Most Common Themes and Concerns:

Below is a list of the most commonly collected themes and concerns in the responses.  Each is provided with the response numbers that include that topic. Many responders are concerned with the police chief as an extension of the police department’s priorities as a whole, and so many concerns are about that topic are included along with the police chief’s individual character traits.  

Also included is a compilation of themes picked up at least once in the responses.

Hiring Source: The source for the new Police Chief is a common topic in the responses. Some want to see an internal promotion, while others prefer a selection from outside the city.  More responses, however, prefer an internal hire—citing knowledge of city and police culture as justification (1, 2, 5, 7, 11, 14, 15, 19, 21, 29, 42, 49).  
“I would really like for once to see someone promoted from within the TPD. Why do we always have to hire from outside? Don't we have qualified people to lead our city right here that already knows the town and the people.” - #1

Bill Cochran: Eight responders voiced support for the appointment of Bill Cochran as the permanent chief (7, 11, 13, 14, 21, 39, 42, 50).
“[Cochran] clearly has the pulse of the agency and understands the needs of the community. He is a man of action and his career and service to our country is his testament. TPD is thirsty for leadership and he is clearly up to task.” - #7

Specific Criminal Issues: Drug-activity, especially sales and use, is the most commonly cited criminal concern among the responses (eight responses—5, 10, 20, 22, 24, 27, 48).  Gang activity is another issue of concern (six responses—9, 20, 22, 25, 28, 47).  
“I'd estimate upwards of 85% of the crime in Topeka has a drug-nexus; offender is on drug, seeking money for drugs, dealing drugs, etc. Talk to people about the vacuum which is created after some of the large-scale methamphetamine busts in Topeka. We need to make Topeka an uncomfortable place for drug dealers to live.” - #5

Police Accountability:  Five responders cite problems with police accountability—they feel as if the police are not responsive to the needs and issues of the community (5, 10, 16, 18, 37).  
“…training police to interact with whole community in ways that de-escalate situations and builds trust; soliciting citizen input in environments and under conditions that are engaging and open to critique; assessing current policies and contracts in light of transparency and accountability…” - #33

Communication with the Public and Transparency:  Maintaining a sense of open communication between the public and the police is important to our residents.  Seven responses mention some form of communication with the public (8, 9, 11, 18, 22, 26, 46) and five more ask for more transparency (33, 35, 37, 38, 46).
“I would like to see a Police Chief that will TALK to us the citizens. I would like to see someone that is willing to step out into the public eye and say we have a plan to fight crime and that will reassure us that the TPD is working to keep us safe. Yes it is important to show TPD doing public relation projects. BUT I want to know that they are fighting CRIME.” - #22

Diversity: Five responses specifically call for more diversity in the police force (32, 33, 38, 40, 44), and three of those specifically suggest a nonwhite chief in pursuit of that goal (33, 40, 44).   
“A strong community policing force is what our community needs. Our police force should have a very diverse representation of officers.” - #32