Tulsa police chief says City Councilor Blake Ewing wrong about compliance checks at his restaurants
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
2/19/13 at 8:08 AM
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan on Monday defended his department's handling of routine compliance checks on downtown restaurants Jan. 31 and challenged City Councilor Blake Ewing's assertion that his businesses were targeted.
"The checks on Jan. 31 were conducted without regard to business ownership as are all checks," Jordan wrote in a news release. "Officers should never be required to consider who owns an establishment before deciding whether or not to perform compliance checks."
Jordan said the compliance initiative began in October and that more than 200 checks were conducted citywide before Jan. 31.
"Checks have been done in nearly every part of the city, and they will continue to be done citywide," Jordan wrote.
Ewing said last week that he believes that police targeted him during the checks but acknowledged that he had no evidence to support his claim.
"The issue I have is that they were harsh, aggressive and overstaffed - not that they were writing me tickets," he said. "I felt like I was defending my staff and my guests that night. They were freaked out by this display."
Jordan challenges Ewing's description of officers' behavior, saying there are clear indications that police officers and agents with the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission "remained professional and tolerant throughout the incident when confronted by harsh and aggressive behavior themselves."
The police report from that night indicates that police officers and the ABLE agents went to nine downtown restaurants and bars - Orpha's, Max Retropub, Back Alley Blues and BBQ, Dilly Deli, Dust Bowl, Joe Momma's, El Guapo's, McNellie's and Woody's Corner Bar - as well as the Red Rock Saloon, 1229 Charles Page Blvd. Woody's, Orpha's and the Red Rock Saloon are the only ones not owned by either Ewing or businessman Elliot Nelson.
The police report indicates that officers intended to do more compliance checks in other parts of the city, but officers were redirected to an unrelated police matter.
In all, officers issued 18 citations for unlicensed coin-operated devices and other violations. ABLE agents issued 10 citations for liquor-law violations.
Woody's Corner Bar was not included in the World's story on the compliance checks.
All open clubs within the geographical area identified for compliance checks Jan. 31 were visited by police and ABLE agents, Jordan said. He said there were never 10 officers in Ewing's Joe Momma's restaurant, as Ewing said.
"There were never more than five law enforcement officers in the restaurant at any time," Jordan said. "They included four TPD officers and one ABLE agent."
Ewing also took exception to internal emails among police officers, including one from Deputy Chief Mark McCrory to Jordan, stating that Ewing used "his position to try and keep our officers from doing their job."
Jordan said officers never leaked emails about the incident, as suggested by Ewing.
In a statement issued late Monday, Ewing said that immediately after the Jan. 31 compliance checks, he reached out to Jordan to discuss the Police Department's compliance enforcement policies.
"Sadly, the actions of the department in the time since making that appointment have communicated a stronger desire to be vindicated than to improve the way in which they interface with local businesses," Ewing said. "I'm hopeful this incident doesn't keep other local business owners from representing their concerns in defense of their businesses, reputations, employees and guests.
"Our small business community shouldn't ever fear retribution from law enforcement; rather, we should all be working together to create a community in which small businesses can thrive in accord with and under the protection of the law."
Ewing said he takes responsibility for not having the proper stickers on his arcade games and has implemented a system to ensure that his restaurants remain in compliance.
Jordan, Ewing and Nelson had scheduled a meeting for Thursday to discuss the Police Department's compliance enforcement policies. The meeting reportedly has been put on hold because of a scheduling conflict.
Original Print Headline: Police chief says councilor wrong about eatery checks
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan (left) and City Councilor Blake Ewing: Ewing said the checks were "harsh, aggressive and overstaffed," but Jordan said his officers "remained professional and tolerant."