Topeka Capital-Journal. January 2023.

Editorial: JuliAnn Mazachek will face challenges at Washburn University. We wish her well.

Welcome back to Topeka, JuliAnn Mazachek.

Washburn University is lucky to have you back as its president.

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Rafael Garcia reports Mazachek was selected as the university’s 15th president last week. The first woman to take the role.

Mazachek’s long career at Washburn, first as a professor, then dean, then Foundation and Alumni Association president and CEO, and ultimately provost combined with her notoriety as a well-loved and prominent leader on campus.

She hasn’t been gone long. Last March, Mazachek left Washburn to become the president at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity to serve the university in this capacity, and I am thrilled to be able to do that,” Mazachek said. “It’s been a dream for many years, and I’m very excited to be able to do that here.”

She will replace Jerry Farley, whom she had served beside during his 25-year presidency.

Garcia reports Washburn’s board of regents, in selecting Mazachek as university president, noted her loyalty and reputation as a dynamic leader on campus.

“We, the board, felt she could step into this position and just keep the train moving without having to learn all the new ropes and people, which can be difficult for anyone coming into a position like this,” said board vice chair John Dietrick.

The regents could have been a bit more transparent about President Farley’s retirement plans, in our book. They had to have seen the possibility coming and should have planned better for it. Twenty-five years is a long time to do anything.

A plan should have been discussed and publicly shared.

From where we stand, they are lucky to have an experienced administrator who is deeply familiar with the unique skills and challenges a municipal university faces.

This year, Washburn’s tuition was raised by roughly 2.1%. Additionally, the enrollment headcount dropped 3.8% at the university, though the Washburn Institute of Technology saw an 11.4% increase. The university now has 5,657 students with another 1,233 enrolled at Washburn Tech.

President Mazachek, we wish you luck. There will be challenges ahead. May you face them with the grace of an Ichabod.


Kansas City Star. January 23, 2023.

Editorial: Disoriented KCK police officer in viral video deserves help — and public needs clarity

Kansas City, Kansas Police Department officials are investigating the on-duty behavior of one of their officers. In a video circulating on social media, the unknown patrolman’s actions and demeanor give the community legitimate reason to be concerned.

In the footage, the lawman appears to be incapable of performing his duties while he is interacting with people in the stairwell of an apartment building. While we don’t know what caused the officer’s peculiar actions and nonsensical speech, an internal investigation should determine whether he presented a hazard to himself or the public.

KCK Police Chief Karl Oakman is aware of the online footage and the officer’s conduct, department officials said. The patrolman is on administrative leave while department heads investigate the incident. “As soon as we became aware of the situation late last week, we began the process of an internal investigation,” said a department statement released Monday afternoon. “While still early in the investigation, preliminary information indicates that a medical condition may have been a factor in the officer’s appearance.”

The officer’s mental and physical health should be prioritized if he was experiencing a medical crisis. If it is proven he violated department policy or broke the law, the KCKPD must publicly report its findings. And however the inquiry unfolds, the police department must provide the officer the proper treatment for whatever ails him.

Earlier this month, an area man posted a video to Facebook showing two Kansas City, Kansas, police officers at his home apparently responding to a call over a child custody dispute. In the video, the poster accuses one of the officers of being under the influence of drugs.

Off camera, the man can be heard telling the officer acting erratically: “You’re high as (expletive), dude.”

Attempts to reach the man who originally posted the video for comment were unsuccessful. In an interview with the Kansas City Defender, a Black-owned digital media company that republished the video on its own accounts, the man described the officer as “high out of his mind.”

To his great credit, the erratic officer’s partner tried to maintain his professionalism and honored the request from the people at the apartment building for a sergeant to respond to the scene.

But the officer in question, leaning against a wall with eyes glazed, offers only incoherent replies in the video. His movements do not seem to be those of a patrolman fit for duty. We don’t know the officer’s name, rank or years of service, or when he was placed on administrative leave. Department officials had not replied to our follow-up questions by Monday afternoon.

This is no indictment of the officer involved — but the video footage is out in the wild, and unfortunately for now, it speaks for itself. Anything less than a full public accounting from the department of what actually happened that evening is unacceptable.

We understand, police work is challenging. Nationwide, law enforcement officials report higher rates of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder than the general population, recent studies show. “Being a police officer is a rewarding career, but dangerous—not only physically, but mentally as well,” writes a career Cleveland police officer and military veteran on the the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ website. “Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. We can all agree that every assignment we get or assignments we assist on, we take a little bit of that particular incident with you.”

Police in Kansas City, Kansas, aren’t immune to the stressors of the job. In this instance, an investigation will unearth what occurred with this patrolman and whether he ran afoul of the law or department policy. Until then, we will withhold judgment on the officer’s employment status. If he does need help, it is our hope he receives the support he is owed by the department, and by the community he serves.

END

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