Settlement to Remedy Wichita Gang List’s Unchecked Power and Establish Oversight

Settlement will established previously nonexistent processes for notification and removal, transparency requirements, and oversight mechanisms


Kenzie Borland, Communications Manager, Kansas Appleseed, [email protected]
Esmie Tseng, Communications Director, ACLU of Kansas, [email protected]

WICHITA, KAN. –  The City of Wichita approved a settlement at its Tuesday meeting that will significantly reform the policy and practices of the Wichita Police Department's (WPD) long-standing use of an unconstitutional and discriminatory “Gang List” or “Gang Database.” The council approved the agenda item unanimously, 7-0.

“We are thankful that all parties were able to come to the table and try to mitigate the devastating impact that the Gang List has on so many people and families in the Wichita community,” said Marquetta Atkins, Executive Director of Progeny and Destination Innovation, Inc.. “Our organization has worked for years directly in our community to research and understand the full scope of harm caused by this database – and this is a crucial step in the relationship between our neighborhoods and the police department.”

This mediated agreement narrows and clarifies the criteria the Wichita Police Department can use to place a person on the Gang List/Database, with increased third-party oversight on the Gang List/Database process to review when and how someone can be listed. In addition, the WPD will create a method for members of the public to check and see if they are included on the Gang List/Database and an appeal process if the person believes their designation is incorrect and wishes to challenge it. The agreement is intended to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens of Wichita and allow law enforcement to conduct effective investigations for public safety.

“We’re extremely gratified that the City has recognized the need to reform the WPD’s deeply problematic and unconstitutional Gang List practices, and we cannot overstate the real-life consequences for every person that has been affected by this List,” said Kunyu Ching, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Kansas. “Our First and Fourteenth Amendment rights are fundamental – we have a right to come together for social and political purposes, and we have a right to know when the government subjects us to negative legal consequences and to challenge those actions. These reforms bring about much needed clarity, transparency, and accountability to practices that have overwhelmingly targeted Wichita’s communities of color.”

Though only 7.5 percent of Wichita’s population is Black, Black residents comprise over 50 percent of the Gang List. Latinx individuals make up nearly 30 percent of the List, yet only account for 14.1 percent of Wichita’s population. Despite making up nearly 68 percent of Wichita’s population, less than 14 percent of those on the Gang List are white. As of May 2022, the Gang List included at least 5,507 individuals.

These are tremendous changes for the community, thanks to the incredible courage of our clients,” said Teresa Woody, Litigation Director for Kansas Appleseed. “They took on the heavy responsibility of joining a lawsuit – including enduring heightened scrutiny, because they wanted to see the system changed and to ensure that others in the community, especially young people, did not have the threat of criminal street gang identification hanging over them just for going about their daily lives.”

Inclusion on the Gang List exposes individuals to a wide range of direct and indirect civil and criminal consequences, including enhanced bail, stricter pretrial release, probation, and parole conditions, limited plea opportunities, introduction of extremely prejudicial evidence at criminal trials, widespread reputational harm, chilling of associative and assembly activities, and limitation or loss of housing and employment opportunities.

Previously, the WPD’s Gang Unit had unilateral and virtually unchecked power to designate Wichita residents as “gang members” or “gang associates” without reliable evidence and without any requirement that individuals commit, be charged with, or even suspected of a criminal offense. Instead, the criteria for inclusion on the List – which comes from state law – were vague and broad, encompassing a wide range of innocuous, innocent, and constitutionally protected behavior such as a person’s clothing color or tattoos, where they spent time, or who they socialized with. The WPD was not required to inform an individual of their designation as a gang member or associate or to give them an opportunity to contest that designation. No mechanism existed for removing an individual from the Gang List–once a person was included, they remained on the List into perpetuity.

The settlement requires substantial changes to the ways in which the WPD can add individuals to the Gang List. These changes include elimination of the “gang associates” and “inactive” gang member categories, mandatory notification to those added to the Gang List, and processes for finding out and appealing one’s status and inclusion on the Gang List. The changes also include additional limitations on how WPD officers can satisfy the statutory criteria for adding or renewing individuals on the Gang List.

For example, under one statutory criterion, WPD officers could include an individual on the List for “associating with known criminal street gang members.” This overbroad criterion led to WPD officers to adding or renewing individuals’ List status as active gang members or associates for being observed on a single occasion in the company of a suspected gang member in innocuous settings such as funerals or concerts. Under the revised Gang List policy, WPD officers must observe an individual in the company of known gang members two or more times while participating in criminal street gang activity, and the observing officer must be able to articulate a reasonable basis for their belief that the individual was engaging in such criminal activity. Additionally, the new policy creates a presumption that attending events such as funerals, weddings, family celebrations, concerts or sporting events, education events, or religious or political gatherings is not criminal street gang activity.

The class-action lawsuit was filed on April 15th, 2021 by the ACLU of Kansas, Kansas Appleseed, and pro bono partner Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP against the City of Wichita on behalf of Progeny and individual clients. In October 2023, the court granted class certification, allowing the case to represent all impacted individuals in the WPD’s Gang List/Database. The court must approve the parties’ settlement before the reforms can go into full effect.


About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit
About Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice: Kansas Appleseed is a statewide organization that believes Kansans, working together, can build a state full of thriving, inclusive, and just communities. Kansas Appleseed conducts policy research and analysis and works with communities and partners to understand the root causes of problems and advocate for comprehensive solutions. For more information, visit

About Progeny and Destination Innovation: Progeny is a youth/adult partnership focused on reimagining the juvenile justice system and reinvestment into community-based alternatives. Our vision is to transform the juvenile justice system in Kansas by closing the remaining state youth prison and shifting power to the communities most impacted by these systems through investment in programs that build a healthier Kansas for youth development. For more information, visit

Working with the ACLU of Kansas and the Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon provided pro bono assistance throughout the case.