Time to move on from the cop-councilor kerfuffle
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, February 24, 2013
2/24/13 at 6:48 AM
In some disagreements, both sides sometimes can be right. Or at least partly right. The kerfuffle between City Councilor Blake Ewing and the Tulsa Police Department is a case in point.
Councilor Ewing also is the owner of several downtown establishments. In some of those alcoholic drinks are served. In some there are video games. Both need to be inspected and licensed. In some there are alcoholic beverages, video games and food is served.
On Jan. 31, a weekday evening, at around 6 p.m. officials from the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission with some Tulsa police officers (just how many is in dispute) in tow, descended upon several Tulsa restaurants and bars, some of which are owned by Ewing.
Ewing says that the ABLE agents and as many as 10 police officers were "harsh, aggressive and overstaffed." The police say that Ewing was the "harsh and aggressive" one and that they were being professional.
There is some recorded evidence that Ewing might have made a veiled threat to the police about voting for future police issues. Ewing says he was misunderstood.
Ewing says there were 10 officers, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan says it was more like five. He said officers accompany ABLE agents to defend against belligerent drunks.
Five, eight, 10. Whatever.
Ewing certainly makes one good point. The officers arrived at his Joe Momma's pizza restaurant during the dinner hour. It's a popular place for families. It is not known as a place for belligerent drunks.
Ewing was concerned that his customers and staff were put ill at ease by the cops. That's understandable. Only a few weeks earlier four women had been murdered and the suspects, at that time, remained at large. So, you're sitting having pizza and five or 10 cops come in. What's the first thing that goes through your mind?
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.
Back Alley, Dilly Deli, Dust Bowl, Joe Momma's, El Guapo's and McNellie's are as much restaurants as bars, some more. Dust Bowl is a bowling alley that serves food and drinks. The others are pretty much bars.
We can all agree that restaurants and bars need to be inspected. But we also can agree that there are right and wrong ways to go about the inspections. At last check, police were equipped with radios attached to their uniforms. Would it be too difficult for officers to remain outside and if ABLE agents encountered trouble, they could alert the officers? I wouldn't mind seeing a few more cops on foot on the streets in the Blue Dome and Brady districts.
Ewing, who has been a very good councilor, has at least admitted that he handled the situation poorly and says he was at least partly wrong. He says that he was protecting his staff by insisting that they not sign the tickets. He says, as the owner, he felt he was responsible and ought to sign the tickets, not his managers.
The good advice that almost everyone's dad gave them at one time or another is that when confronted by a cop, say "yes sir" and "no sir" and fully cooperate. If there is a problem, take it up with the department the next day. Ewing forgot that advice. His irritation, however, is understandable. It was the dinner hour. The place was busy. The inspection was intrusive and upsetting to his customers.
Is there no other time of day that ABLE agents can inspect restaurants. Can we ask that Jordan, who has been a very good chief, and the police move on to crime-fighting and maybe review the TPD inspection policy? And maybe come around to saying that maybe they didn't handle the situation as well as they should have?
I don't believe that Ewing was targeted by the police department. There is no evidence to support that. I don't believe that Ewing will seek retribution by voting against police issues. He has been an even-handed councilor and I expect that to continue.
This is a lot of fun for newspapers to report on. And it's fun stuff to read.
But we've all had our fun and it's time to move on. Can't we all agree on that?
Everybody shake hands and come out - cooperating.
Original Print Headline: Fun's over
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332