New TPD policies enforce ethics
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Sunday, June 10, 2012
6/10/12 at 7:28 AM
Read past stories and view documents related to the federal investigation of the Tulsa Police Department.
A year after Tulsa police officers appeared in court and the first officer was convicted following a federal corruption probe, department-wide changes continue to take root as the Tulsa Police Department moves forward, the police chief said.
"We've changed everything from our policy online to informant handling to cash handling," TPD Chief Chuck Jordan told the Tulsa World. "We've (done) everything we can do to at least detect an issue quicker. That's all you can do. You can't prevent it, you can only detect it quicker."
On June 10, 2011, Tulsa Police Cpl. Harold R. Wells was convicted of five counts, while Officers Nick DeBruin and Bruce Bonham were acquitted on all counts related to charges of stealing money during an FBI sting in 2009 and planting drugs on people to gain convictions.
DeBruin and Bonham were fired in January. Their termination was partially related to a policy change that made lying a no-tolerance offense within the department.
Capt. Jonathan Brooks said the policy has been enforced several times since it was put into place, including the firings as a result of the corruption trials.
During the past year, Wells was sentenced to 10 years in prison and another officer, Jeff Henderson, was convicted in a second trial on eight counts and sentenced to more than three years in prison. Tulsa Police Officer Bill Yelton, Henderson's co-defendant on several counts, was acquitted in that trial and retired in May, about nine months after an internal investigation began.
Two other law enforcement officers, former Tulsa Police Officer John K. "J.J." Gray and former U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent Brandon McFadden, pleaded guilty in the corruption cases and cooperated with prosecutors.
Gray was sentenced to about four months in prison and was released May 1. McFadden is serving 21 months in federal prison near Dallas.
In total, the grand jury probe, which began as early as 2008, resulted in charges against six current or former Tulsa police officers, as well as accusations of criminal behavior against five unindicted officers. The results of the probe have led to at least 44 people being freed or having their cases modified and at least nine lawsuits against the city.
Jordan said the department has been raising awareness about ethics on every level, from supervisors to recruits.
"We're also going out here, and we're talking about ethics," Jordan said. "Every class at the academy has an ethics component. ... We're pushing ethics."
In January 2011, Jordan addressed TPD's first recruit class since the beginning of the police corruption investigation with a message about ethics.
"We've stumbled a few times in the past years," Jordan said to the class of 42 recruits on their first day. "I expect absolute honesty. We will not lie in reports. We will not lie to each other."
Since the federal investigation began, Jordan has made several changes, including a policy that presumes the disciplinary action for dishonesty would be firing.
Other policy changes were made to improve the department's use of informants and cash-handling procedures.
The federal case against the convicted officers relied heavily on informants, and several charges regarded falsified reports based on informant information.
Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said he approves of the policy changes TPD has made and values his office's relationship with police, despite dozens of cases that have come up with inmates seeking post-conviction relief.
"I think (Tulsa police) are doing their dead-level best to regain the confidence of the community," Harris said. "I'm glad it's behind us. I think the Tulsa Police Department is doing what they can to move forward."
For his department, Jordan said teaching ethics is a focus but not enough.
"It's not just about, 'You better not do this because we don't want you to be unethical.' It's, 'Take some pride in yourself.' Ethics is about pride and character and those things, and that's what we're pushing."
History of federal investigation
The federal investigation of Tulsa police officers and a federal agent began as early as 2008 and resulted in charges against six current or former Tulsa police officers and the federal agent, as well as accusations of criminal behavior against five unindicted officers.
Additionally, at least 44 people have been freed from prison or had their cases modified because of civil rights violations or potential problems with their cases.
Several lawsuits have stemmed from the two-year federal investigation. Lawsuits were filed as early as April 2010, and to date, there appear to be nine lawsuits, the World has reported.
The first Tulsa police trial was May 31 to June 10, 2011. The second trial was Aug. 1 to Aug. 24, 2011.
Three police officers - Nick DeBruin, Bruce Bonham and Bill Yelton - were acquitted on civil rights violations in two separate cases.
- Jeff Henderson, a Tulsa police officer hired by TPD in 1995, was convicted on two counts of civil rights violations and six counts of perjury. He was acquitted on 45 counts of perjury, civil rights violations, drug conspiracy and witness tampering.Henderson was sentenced to 42 months in prison, which he is currently serving in South Dakota.
- Brandon McFadden, hired as an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2002, was sentenced to 21 months in a Texas prison after pleading guilty to drug conspiracy. McFadden cooperated with prosecutors.
- John K. "J.J." Gray, a former Tulsa police officer hired in 1990, pleaded guilty to stealing money and was sentenced to four months in a Louisiana prison. He was released May 1. Gray cooperated with prosecutors.
- Harold R. Wells, hired as a Tulsa police officer in 1975, was convicted on five counts, but a federal judge later dismissed one count. Wells was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, which he is currently serving in Minnesota.
Bonham was charged with five counts and DeBruin was charged with six counts related to theft of U.S. funds, civil rights violations, drug possession and possession of firearms. TPD fired DeBruin and Bonham on Jan. 20 for "conduct unbecoming an officer" and "duty to be truthful and obedient."
Yelton retired in May, about nine months after police announced an internal investigation was under way following his acquittal.
TPD adopts three policy changes
Three key policy changes have been put in place at the Tulsa Police Department during and following a federal trial of three police officers that concluded a year ago. Here are details:
Cash and drug handling: Police have changed the policy on how they handle evidence as part of an investigation. The policy creates more levels of oversight and documents as drugs and cash are taken into evidence.
Informant reporting: Police changed how they use and keep records on informants. The policy expands the definition of a confidential informant to include any informant that leads to a search or arrest warrant. The policy further details procedures for using an informant within the department, requiring officers to document informants, gain supervisor approval and terminate relationships with unreliable informants, among other issues.
Honesty policy: Police began a new policy of no tolerance for any officer who lies on law-enforcement records. Jordan said it's a policy that should have been in place long before the police corruption investigation.
Original Print Headline: TPD mixes ethics with new policies
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
Tulsa Police Department's 42 apprentice police officers begin the department's first academy in two years, which began Monday. JARREL WADE / Tulsa World
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan addresses 42 police officer recruits in January 2011. JARREL WADE / Tulsa World file