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Topeka police chief pledges more transparency after shooting

September 17, 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are working to be more responsive and accessible to the public after the shooting death of a black man by two officers last year, according to the city’s police chief.

Police Chief Bill Cochran told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the department would now handle the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting differently compared to the case of Dominique White. The 30-year-old was shot by officers Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey on Sept. 28, 2017, after a struggle near a Topeka park.

The officers were responding to a report of gunfire and confronted White, who was armed. Police body camera footage shows White fleeing from the officers before he was shot. The officers didn’t face any criminal charges.

“Dominique White’s shooting did more to transform law enforcement in the city of Topeka and the state of Kansas than probably any other incident in a long, long time,” Cochran said.

In the future, the department would like to be in contact with the agency investigating the case to increase transparency with Topeka residents, the police chief said. The department didn’t know the status of White’s case as it was being investigated by the Lawrence Police Department.

“I don’t think the public liked hearing, ‘Well, Lawrence has it and we don’t have any idea what’s going on,’” he said.

The department is collaborating with other eastern Kansas law enforcement agencies and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on handling police shootings. The agencies are considering a proposal to have a separate team that can investigate such incidents.

A new police union contract also provides a timeline for the release of bodycam recordings, which was a contested issue following White’s shooting. The contract outlines that shooting videos “may be released to the public no sooner than 60 days following the incident, except the video may be released to the public sooner with mutual agreement by the employee, union and the city.”

The department has also designated an officer to serve as a liaison when traumatic events occur to provide information directly to family members.

White’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in June against the city and the two officers. The family has alleged that White’s death is due to an embedded culture of racism within police departments.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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