Shook has partnered with the ACLU of Kansas and Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice to file a class action lawsuit alleging the Wichita Police Department’s use of a gang list is unconstitutional and violates community members’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. The Kansas Reflector reported on the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges the criteria to qualify as a gang member are vague and broad and encompassa wide range of innocuous, innocent, and constitutionally protected behavior. Members of the Wichita community do not have to commit or even be charged with a criminal offense to be placed on the gang list. An individual can be added to the gang list for frequenting a particular criminal street gang’s area, wearing a criminal street gang’s color, associating with criminal street gang members, or being identified as a criminal street gang member by “photographs or other documentation.” There is no requirement that the Wichita Police Department inform people when they are added to the gang list, no opportunity to challenge being added to the list, and no process to petition for removal from the list. Once on the gang list, if a person is charged with a crime, they will face higher bond amounts, more severe probation and parole conditions, and enhanced sentences. Individuals on the list also face constant surveillance, harassment, and discriminatory policing by the Wichita Police Department.
The complaint also alleges the gang list discriminatorily targets Black and Latinx communities. Black residents make up only 10.9% of Wichita’s population, but comprise 60% of Wichita’s gang list. Latinx individuals account for only 17.2% of Wichita’s population, but make up 25% of the gang list. In contrast, White residents make up 62.8% of Wichita’s population, but account for only 6% of the Gang List.
Shook attorneys participating include Partners Charlie Eblen and Tom Sullivan, and Associates Jordan Baehr, Amy Depuy, Mitchell Engel, Paul Vogel and Brittany Wilson. The case is Progeny v. City of Wichita, Kansas, United States District Court for the District of Kansas, Case No. 6:21-cv-01100. The class action complaint was filed on April 15, 2021.
Update: On January 10, 2022 the District Court denied significant portions of the City of Wichita’s motion to dismiss. The Court preserved all of Plaintiffs’ individual procedural due process claims, Plaintiffs’ void-for-vagueness claim, and Plaintiffs’ claim that the Wichita Police Department’s policy and statute permitting the gang list to exist is unconstitutional as it infringes on Plaintiffs’ freedom of expression and association. Partnering with the ACLU of Kansas and Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, the lawsuit was filed last April on behalf of Progeny, a Wichita-based youth civil rights organization, and four individual plaintiffs.