Tulsa police will not respond to some calls
BY NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writer
Friday, February 05, 2010
2/05/10 at 5:01 AM
Noninjury collisions, fraud, forgery, burglary from vehicle, larceny and other minor property crimes can be reported to Tulsa police online or by calling 596-9222.
Tulsa police have temporarily stopped responding to noninjury crashes and some property-crime report calls — such as fraud and larceny — unless a suspect is present at the time, authorities announced Thursday.
"Almost a third of our uniformed officers were laid off. It was inevitable that we were going to have to re-evaluate how we were responding to calls, and these are the steps we felt like we had to take to maintain our response to the higher priority calls," Officer Jason Willingham said.
The changes took effect at midnight Wednesday night and were the result of suggestions from a committee of officers and dispatchers who studied the department's call load.
The city laid off 124 officers on Jan. 29 due to the budget crisis, and the majority of them worked in patrol.
During the transition to deal with the loss, authorities have said handling emergency calls would remain a priority.
Willingham said 61 officers were transferred from other assignments, including the Detective Division, to patrol.
"We are shorter-staffed in the street as well as in the Detective Division, but there are enough officers to maintain the minimum manning level," Willingham said. "At the end of the day, we will maintain enough officers in the field to respond to all emergency calls."
He said officers would not respond to noninjury collisions unless a crime is involved, a disturbance stems from the collision or a motorist appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Similarly, police will not respond when people want to report such crimes as fraud and forgery, burglary from vehicles and larcenies unless the crime is in progress.
Tulsans may still file those reports online or by phone, however, and they will be referred to the appropriate investigators.
Police will continue to respond to residential and commercial burglaries.
Carol Bush, the executive director of the Crime Commission, said many of the crimes that Alert Neighbors groups call in to police are those sorts of crimes.
"I think it is a really sad state that we are no longer going to have police officers to handle those kinds of calls," Bush said. "I know the police are extremely frustrated. This is not what they expected when they took the oath to protect and serve."
Bush said she was not sure how the commission is going to explain to residents about the changes in police policy.
"How you work together as Alert Neighbors, banding together and being the eyes and ears for the police is very important, but the next step of that process is to call that crime in," Bush said. "That community outreach is certainly important, and I think part of that outreach is gone."
Elaine Dodd, who is the vice president of the Fraud Division of the Oklahoma Bankers Association and a 22-year veteran of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, said she could understand the difficulties police are dealing with on short staffing during such tough economic times.
"I think fraud is such a problem that I think it deserves a lot of attention, but manpower is what it is," she said. "My sense is that everybody is trying to do the best they can with what they have."
Dodd said that is why it is important for businesses and citizens to be educated about fraud and work together to prevent fraud before it happens.
Now that police have stopped responding to noninjury crashes, John Wiscaver, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance Co. in Oklahoma, said it is more important than ever that drivers record everything they can about a crash to provide to their insurance companies.
"The key thing that they need to consider is to get as much information as possible and capture as many relevant facts as possible about what occurred," he said.
Willingham said the department would continue to assess the staffing in patrols and the Detective Division and that some of the changes to the police responses will be temporary.
"We certainly understand the concerns that people are going to have when they are affected by one of these crime categories. However, it is extremely important for us to be able to respond when there is a life at stake," he said.
"We are not happy about this. We don't want people to think this is something that we wanted. This is out of necessity."
Use of deputies for Tulsa in doubt
The idea of using Tulsa County
sheriff’s deputies to help patrol
city streets doesn’t seem to be
gaining any traction — at least at
the Tulsa Police Department.
Interim Police Chief Chuck
Jordan on Thursday became
the second Tulsa police chief in
a little more than two weeks to
dismiss the idea.
“There is no plan to bring the
Sheriff’s office into the city to do
policing,” he said.
Former Chief ron Palmer said
three days before his Jan. 22
resignation that deputies would
not be needed to patrol Tulsa
streets, even if officers were laid
off.mayor Dewey Bartlett, meanwhile,
kept open the possibility.
“If Chief Jordan believes that
we can get by without involving
the sheriff, then that’s fine,”
Bartlett said. “But if it looks like
we’re not fulfilling our responsibility
of providing responsible
service, then I think we need to
talk to the sheriff.
In mid-January, as police
layoffs loomed, Palmer said the
Police Department had contingency
plans should officers lose
Having deputies assist the
Police Department was first
broached by Bartlett, who asked
Sheriff Stanley Glanz in December
to come up with a plan. At
the time, the city was facing a
$10.4 million budget crisis and
the prospect of police, firefighter
and civilian employee layoffs.
Last Friday, 124 officers were
—Kevin Canfield, World staff writer
Nicole Marshall 581-8459