Mosque flap leads to TPD captain being suspended
BY NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
6/15/11 at 7:40 AM
A Tulsa police captain who disobeyed an order to make officers attend a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at a Tulsa mosque was suspended without pay for two weeks.
In February, Capt. Paul Fields was temporarily transferred from the Police Department's Riverside Division to the Mingo Valley Division, and an internal investigation was launched into the matter.
Fields filed a federal lawsuit two days later, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.
His suspension began June 12 and will end June 25, according to a personnel order signed by Police Chief Chuck Jordan.
Specifically, he was suspended 40 hours for violating the department's rule on being obedient and another 40 hours for violating a rule on conduct unbecoming to an officer.
The personnel order states that his "actions and writings that were made public brought discredit upon the department related to furnishing officers to attend" the event.
The Law Enforcement Appreciation Day was held March 4 at the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa. Jordan has said the Islamic Society scheduled the event to show its appreciation for the officers' response to a threat against it. Officers have attended past events at that location.
Each of the Police Department's three patrol divisions had been assigned to schedule at least six officers and three supervisors to attend the event.
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 arranged.
Webster said voluntary participation was preferred, "but should voluntary response not be up to task, assignment would be the next alternative."
Fields said in correspondence with a superior that he considered the order to be "an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with (his) personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience shocking."
He also told his superiors that he would not require any of his subordinates to follow the order "if they share similar religious convictions."
Initially, Fields' lawsuit only named Webster as a defendant. However, in March he added the city of Tulsa and Jordan, the police chief, as defendants.
The revised lawsuit also had the Thomas More Law Center entering the case on Fields' behalf.
The Thomas More Law Center is a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that is involved in litigation "defending the religious freedom of Christians as well as countering the infiltration of radical Muslims in America," Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the center, said in a previous statement.
Scott Wood, Fields' attorney, said Tuesday that he will continue to pursue the lawsuit.
"Obviously, we are disappointed the department did not change its position. We are going to continue to pursue Paul's grievance through the department and address the damages in a federal lawsuit," Wood said.
Allison Moore, Islamic Society of Tulsa Community Relations Spokesperson, said that they had no comment specifically on the situation involving Fields. She did, however, praise the work of Tulsa police officers.
"We have just been thrilled with the Tulsa Police Department over the years. We have had a wonderful relationship with them," Moore said.
Nicole Marshall 918-581-8459
Tulsa police enter the Al Salam mosque and Islamic Center to get a free lunch as part of a law enforcement appreciation day in Tulsa, OK Mar. 4, 2011. MICHAEL WYKE/ Tulsa World