In case you were wondering, there are some extremely bad apples in the Witchita Police Department. So many, in fact, that it may be time to defund the police. Just sayin’.
According to reporting from The Wichita Eagle, 11 officers were investigated after text messages found on one officer’s phone revealed a slew of racist memes and texts—many of which referred to civilians who’d been shot or killed by the police.
One of the texts found was sent by a white Wichita officer, Sgt. Jamie Crouch, showing a photoshopped image of Geroge Floyd’s murder but replacing the officer who killed Floyd, Derek Chauvin, with an image of a naked Black man sitting on Floyd’s head.
A meme, sent by another Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy, showed an image of the cartoon character Elmer Fudd, holding a shotgun, saying, “Be very very quiet, I’m hunting [racial slur].”
Another Sedgwick County deputy allegedly sent a meme to a group chat of officers, mocking the discovery of a noose found in the garage of Black NASCAR driver, Bubba Wallace. The meme showed cone-shaped cups with the caption: “Breaking news: KKK hoods found next to water cooler in Bubba Wallace’s garage.” This officer was eventually placed on paid suspension and, in September, retired.
One of the most terrifying texts was sent from Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy, Sgt. Justin Maxfield, praising a colleague on the SWAT team for being one of the “ultimate de-escalators” who “permanently de-escalated people who needed permanent de-escalation.”
One of the three Wichita officers who responded to Maxfield’s message positively was officer Lee Foese, who was involved in two fatal shootings—one in 2012 and another in 2020. One of the shootings involved a Black man shot five times in the back as he ran from a bar shooting. Foese allegedly responded to Maxfield’s “de-escalated” message with Maxfield also “de-escalated people who needed it.”
Crouch, who sent the Floyd meme, also has a long history of civilian shootings, according to the Eagle. He shot a Black 17-year-old who he thought was involved in a double-murder. The teen turned out not to be the suspect police were looking for.
Crouch was reprimanded, but not suspended, and remains employed by the Wichita Police Department.
The messages were uncovered in April 2021, during an investigation into a domestic violence case involving Maxfield. The messages were shared with the Eagle by an unnamed source.
Maxfield was arrested in April 2021 for allegedly stalking his ex-girlfriend. He was suspended without pay on the day of his arrest and was later convicted and placed on probation, according to The Daily Beast.
Prior to his resignation, Maxfield allegedly shared another image of Floyd with the caption, “You’re telling me [racial slur] couldn’t breathe?” Arrows pointed to Floyd’s lips and nose, a source told the Eagle.
The three officers who commented on the “de-escalation” post were given “coaching and mentoring,” according to the Eagle.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter has called the texts and memes “a big deal,” and told The Daily Beast that three deputies have been fired over them and could “be impeached” if racial bias or deceitfulness is found.
“By law, I had to notify the U.S. Attorney’s Office, because that’s potential information against these deputies, and also the District Attorney because that’s potential impeachment material,” he said.