September 28, 2023

Former Wichita police chief who leaked data to Walmart security guard gets distraction

Wendell Nicholson has been distracted after leaking confidential police information to a Walmart security guard when he was a captain with the Wichita Police Department.

Nicholson, a 29-year veteran who retired a day before he was charged with eight computer crimes in March, signed the diversion agreement May 23, court records show.

Nicholson pleaded guilty to all charges, and the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the case as long as he stays out of trouble for a year and abides by the terms of the diversion agreement.

Those terms include notification to the diversification agency by mail or once a month in person; maintain a working phone number with voicemail; attend school or work full-time unless exempted; not violate the law; notify the decoy agency when interacting with a law enforcement officer; and get permission to leave the state of Kansas.

The court order informs Nicholson that he will receive a diversion “upon investigation of the crimes and your background, and taking into account the factors contained therein (in the state’s diversion law) . . . the interest of justice will be served” by applying diversion to stand.

Nicholson, 52, had no prior convictions. District Attorney Marc Bennett previously told The Eagle that the leaks did not jeopardize any criminal investigation.

Nicholson must pay $160 to the district attorney, $195 in court costs and $33 in jail processing fees. Nicholson was not arrested and instead appeared in court on a subpoena. But he had to go through a booking process last month, providing information to the Sedgwick County Jail without spending any time in a cell.

His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The leaked data includes CCTV footage of a police shooting, details of an internal investigation into text messages sent by SWAT team members, and gang information. Other data included DEA bulletins, recording reviews, identities of victims and suspects, information on gang feuds and murder suspects, and an image of murder victims.

That data is typically withheld by the city or not made public by state law.

The city refuses to disclose who is on the secret gang list. Even people who are on the list are not allowed to know they are on it. The city is being sued in federal court over allegations that the list of about 3,000 members is frequently misused and unfairly and arbitrarily targets African American and Hispanic residents due to increased police oversight, higher bail and higher sentences.

Nicholson was a captain who oversaw the Patrol South traffic department and police station. From the summer of 2020 to April 2022, he also served as the department’s liaison with the Wichita Citizens Review Board, a civilian oversight group that reviews officer disciplinary decisions and Professional Standards Bureau investigations.

Nicholson — the highest-ranking black man in the Wichita Police Department when he retired — addressed the CRB’s assessment of the Department of Disciplinary’s mistreatment for officers who sent racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages, including some celebrating police brutality . The board released a damning report on the department’s handling of the case, and the city responded by punishing some officers and hiring Jensen Hughes to investigate the culture within the department.

Two weeks after an Eagle investigation revealed the disturbing text messages and subsequent failure to discipline the SWAT team members involved, interim chief Lem Moore pulled Nicholson from his role.

Nicholson is one of 10 defendants being charged by Deputy Chief Jose Salcido and former Deputy Chiefs Chet Pinkston and Wanda Givens, who formed former Chief Gordon Ramsay’s executive team.

The deputies alleged in a federal court in late February that “Nicholson is believed to have released confidential criminal information in violation of the law and city policy” and participated in a conspiracy to discredit and remove the deputies from their positions. to delete. . Givens and Pinkston voluntarily left the department, and Salcido remains the deputy chief of investigations.

Nicholson, whose legal representation in the federal lawsuit is being paid for by the city, wants the lawsuit dismissed in part because he was not their supervisor and was unable to retaliate against them.

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