TULSA, Okla. - Mayor G.T. Bynum announced a plan Wednesday to help push the city's community policing program forward.
Mayor Bynum is creating the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) in the upcoming fiscal year to help with policy, outreach and oversight in use-of-force incidents.
“As we develop our community policing program in Tulsa, we recognize the need for modernized oversight systems that provide accountability and transparency and build public trust between our residents and officers." - Mayor G.T. Bynum
The city says the Tulsa Police Department has been working on the implementation of 77 community policing recommendations such as instituting body cameras for all field officers and implementing implicit bias training for all officers. TPD says they have fully implemented 97 percent of those recommendations on an ongoing basis.
The two recommendations remaining for the department include the oversight system, which the new OIM will be meant to fulfill, and the increase of training hours.
"When a use of force incident occurs that causes community concern, the only public discussion happens if the District Attorney files criminal charges or someone files a lawsuit. Internal affairs investigations are conducted confidentially, and citizens have no means of verifying their results. We owe it to the citizens and our officers to do better than that." - Mayor G.T. Bynum
According to the City of Tulsa, the OIM's policy aspect will review best practices and provide recommendations on policy and procedure to improve the city's community policing approach over time. For outreach, OIM will be meant to "facilitate citizen dialogue and feedback to continue transparency." The oversight function is to follow up on citizen complaints and review Tulsa police Internal Affairs investigations on use-of-force to "ensure the correct process was utilized and issue public reports of its findings."
In creating the new office, Mayor Bynum said he will work with the City Council to create a Citizen Oversight Board composed of appointed citizens to assess the effectiveness of the OIM. The Board would also find the lead for the Office of the Independent Monitor.
The city says they learned about the OIM concept through Denver which has had the officer for almost 15 years.
UPDATE: Tulsa's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 93 released the following statement:
"We always welcome more transparency and want to supply as much information as legally possible to the public. This is the first we've heard of Mayor Bynum's plan to creat and Office of Independent Monitor, so, unfortunately, we don't have a lot of details on what it will be. Our only hope is recommendations won't hurt our ability to protect the citizens of Tulsa.
In an email to officers after his announcment today, the Mayor explained why he wanted to add two new layers of review over the PD. in that message, he noted that the Tulsa Police already enjoy at 78% favorability rating in local polling. Even though officers are working at a more than acceptable rating, he went on to say that there was a "clear need for improvement."
We do not understand how both can be true.
We believe the Mayor may have overreacted. Is the problem with our performance or is it a problem communicating with citizens? We also see the need for improved communications with the public but do not see the need for a new government entity and board to do that. The Department has body cameras, dash cameras and Internal Affairs investigations for every complaint against officers, no matter how small. Each of those investigations is reviewed by everyone in the officers' chain of command. We are already the most scrutinized employees in the City by far.
Obviously, we do not object to fair and balanced investigations of our actions, it's a fact of life for officers. We do want the public to understand what we do, why we do it and how we are trained to do it. if we are judged by others, we would expect it to be done the same as other licensed professions. Lawyers, doctors, contractors, nurses, accountants, are all subject to review of their actions, but it is by boards of their peers and those who understand the laws and standards of their professions. We look forward in the future to be able to work collaboratively with the Mayor and City Council to address all these issues."
Police Chief Chuck Jordan told FOX23 he was aware the Mayor's office was interested in an independent oversight committee, but was not aware it was being green-lit until it was announced this week.
Jordan also defines Community Policing as a partnership between law enforcement and citizens to fight and prevent crime.
He says the committee could work well as long as there are people who understand the complex issue, included on the committee.
Jordan says he needs more details about how it would work before he can fully respond.
The Tulsa Fraternal of police also commented on the new idea.
The FOP is the certified bargaining agent for approximately 800 Tulsa Police officers of all ranks and assignments, and has been for over 40 years. Each year State law requires City management and police officers to sit down and negotiate the wages, hours, benefits and conditions of employment in a contract. Usually, there are only a few items that are different from the year before. Existing policies and procedures are made a part of the contract.
The labor contract thus stabilizes the employment rules for officers for that year. It also insulates them from political fluctuations that depend on the issue of the day. Long ago Tulsans created a system in the City Charter called the Merit System to protect employees from political influence. The labor contract operates much the same way.
If one of the parties tries to do something that is not covered by the contract or change the contract it can lead to legal action to prevent or correct that. There have been many times over the years and with various Mayors when the FOP has issued notices similar to the one issued yesterday. They have notified City management that some action may violate the legal duty to bargain and request City leaders to sit down and work it out at the table.
The FOP applauds the Mayor's efforts to address racial issues in Tulsa. It can only make us a better city. The Mayor cites polls to support his plan but those polls also show 59% of the black community have little or no trust in City leaders. It distracts from the real issues to act as if the Police Department is the problem. We would expect the Mayor to work on a comprehensive plan that addresses all concerns. And we would also expect him to abide by the law and to respect the rights of the 800 officers for whom he is responsible. We are still not sure what the Mayor's plan is. He makes statements in the media about things he will not do but then says he wants to do what Denver does, which are contradictory statements. The solution is for us to quit talking to each other in the media and do so in person, And that is what our letter to the Mayor requests.
General Council Tulsa Fraternal Order Of Police
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