Tulsa police captain temporarily reassigned
BY JARREL WADE & NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
2/23/11 at 4:30 AM
Read memos between Fields and his supervisors.
A Tulsa police captain who refused to require that some of his subordinates attend a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at a Tulsa mosque has been assigned to a different division as the department investigates the matter, records show.
Capt. Paul Fields was temporarily transferred Monday afternoon from the Riverside Division to another patrol shift at the Mingo Valley Division.
The Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is scheduled to be held at the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa on March 4. Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the society scheduled the event to show its appreciation for the officers' response to a threat against them.
"This is an opportunity that I saw for us. They extended a hand out to us to thank us and show appreciation," Jordan said, adding that if a church of any denomination or group did the same thing, officers would respond.
He considered the event to be a community-outreach opportunity that was deliberately arranged so that officers wouldn't have to participate in any religious discussion or observance that would create any discomfort.
"This community-outreach event is a function of community policing, which is every bit as much a part of this department's mission as call response," Jordan said. "This event is an opportunity to meet the public we serve, exchange information and build trust."
Citing confidentiality regarding personnel matters, Jordan said he could not comment further on the internal investigation.
In an e-mail sent by Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police Board of Directors Chairman Clay Ballenger to FOP members Monday, Ballenger said Fields' refusal "was based on the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, departmental policy, and past practices of the Tulsa Police Department."
Records show that Fields, 41, was hired by the department in 1995.
Memos obtained by the Tulsa World indicate that Fields believes a directive by the department to send officers to the event is an unlawful order. Each of the department's three patrol divisions was assigned to schedule at least six officers and three supervisors from the three different shifts to attend the event.
Fields stated that he sought the advice of legal counsel and believes that "forcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my Civil Rights," according to a memo to his supervisor dated Feb. 17.
In a Feb. 18 interoffice correspondence, Deputy Chief Daryl Webster told Fields that the event organizers needed to know how many personnel would be attending so that things such as food and tours could be scheduled.
Webster said voluntary participation is desirable, "but should voluntary response not be up to task, assignment would be the next alternative."
He stated: "There is no distinction between performing our lawful duties in a reactive manner (call response) and doing so in a proactive manner (community outreach)."
A personnel order from Jordan to Fields indicates Fields is under administrative investigation regarding the refusal to follow a direct order.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Jordan said it is not unusual for the department to assign officers to go to community events to get to know members of the community and to share public-safety information. The department has never selected whom it provides services for "based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity or preferences," he said.
He also said he "would never assign a police officer to participate in a religious service."
"It is not appropriate," he said. "I would never violate their rights that way."
Jordan said he and other members of his command staff plan to attend the event.
The Islamic Society of Tulsa released a statement Tuesday morning saying the event was specifically in response to a recent threat to the Muslim community in Tulsa. Tulsa police worked to arrest the person involved, and the threat ended.
"The Islamic Society of Tulsa stands by its invitation to show appreciation to anyone in law enforcement and their staff for their service and sacrifice to our community," according to the statement.
Sheryl Siddiqui, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Tulsa, said the mosque has hosted three or four similar events in the past without incident.
"This is a community event," Siddiqui said. "It's in that person-to-person exchange that makes us all a bit safer. We get rid of those stereotypes."
The event is offered to all law enforcement officers and will be open for about six hours with a "casual come-and-go atmosphere," according to the invitation. The organizers are offering a buffet of American and ethnic foods, as well as short and long tours of the mosque.
Siddiqui said the Islamic Society has no expectations of the officers who attend.
"They are guests," she said. "Whatever they like to do, this is for them. If they just want food, they are welcome to it."
Siddiqui also expressed regret that any controversy is forming around the event.
Original Print Headline: Captain temporarily reassigned
Jarrel Wade 581-8367 Nicole Marshall 581-8459
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan says during a news conference Tuesday that community outreach, a function of community policing, is as much a part of the Police Department's mission as is response to calls. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Capt. Paul Fields: An FOP e-mail said Fields' actions were based on the Constitution and on TPD policy and past practices.
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan meets with reporters Tuesday afternoon to clarify the Police Department's position regarding officer attendance at a Tulsa mosque's Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World