WSU professor informs decision on Wichita’s next police chief

Chance Swaim

Wichita State will have a hand in deciding Wichita’s next police chief.

Michael Birzer, professor of criminal justice at Wichita State and director of the WSU School of Community Affairs, was appointed to the Community Advisory Search Committee for Wichita’s next police chief.

The committee was designed to ensure a transparent process and involve community participation.

Birzer said the first step of the committee’s involvement in the selection came when they met with the International Association of Chiefs of Police to establish professional criteria for the next chief.

Birzer was a part of the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs’ 227-page assessment of the Wichita Police Department. The assessment focused on communication training, technology, recruitment, community relations and racial profiling.

“One of the things WPD has done well, over the past 10 years, is address racial profiling in Wichita,” Birzer said. “I say that because they reached out to us. The city manager asked, ‘Can you look at our data? What do we need to improve?’”

The public had the opportunity to hear from the Wichita police chief candidates, Terri Moses and Joel Fitzgerald, during a public forum Monday at Century II. Topics discussed during the forum were similar to the issues addressed in the Hugo Wall assessment.  

“If you look across the country, there’s models called smart policing, or intelligence-based policing,” Birzer said. “The next chief is really going to have to address technology and be prepared to be very progressive as technology comes out. That being said, it’s always a big budget expenditure for the city, but you have to get real. If you don’t, you’re going to get left behind in technology.”

The committee, together with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, chose the finalists, which now include Moses, executive director of safety services for the Wichita Public School system and a former deputy chief with the WPD; and Fitzgerald, chief of police in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Birzer said Wichita City Manager Robert Layton will make the final decision between Moses and Fitzgerald.

“I think there are a number of factors he will have to weigh,” Birzer said. “He’ll probably weigh the public’s thoughts on this, the city council’s thoughts, the mayors thoughts, and, of course, the men and women in the police department, and our committee, too.”

Layton is expected to make his decision before the end of the month, but it could come sooner.

“I think he has done very well,” Birzer said. “I think he’ll make a good decision.”