Police Chief Wendell Franklin knows many officers may be apprehensive or anxious about the department’s direction under his leadership, and he wants to help by addressing the unknowns encompassing its push toward community policing.
Franklin on Tuesday said he has placed Capt. Shellie Seibert in charge of orchestrating a strategic plan for community policing, as well as articulating it to officers and training. He said if one were to quiz an officer on the streets, that officer probably won’t know Tulsa’s community policing strategy.
“If you were a part of our department, it’s just like school. The rumors are running rampant at this point as to what’s going on and what changes are going to take place,” Franklin said, noting his greatest challenge is probably taking concepts and ideas and applying them to the department. “So I’m getting it from all different ends — ‘Hey, I heard you’re doing this or I heard this.’”
Franklin was the guest speaker during a regular meeting of the Mayor’s Policing and Community Coalition for his first time since taking over as chief Feb. 1.
Franklin touched on the five key areas he said he discussed with Mayor G.T. Bynum during the interview process: transparency and accountability, community policing, technology, officer wellness, and customer service.
He spoke at length about initiatives to improve transparency and accountability, including proper use of body-worn cameras.
“I think in the past there was not as much forcefulness used to get compliance with body-worn cameras,” Franklin said. “From my perspective, there’s a huge, huge opportunity to use body-worn cameras more effectively.”
He described the department’s records management system “very clunky and cumbersome,” having launched in 1968 and undergone periodic upgrades. The city has been working on implementing a new system since 2014 and hopes to roll it out in the first quarter of 2021.
He called it the “largest project the city has ever done” and said it will encompass and transform everything officers do.
“It is coming, they will adapt to it, and it is going to be so much better than how we currently do business,” Franklin said.
Another part of a system overhaul involves in-car technology and becoming more data-driven. The police chief said currently, “on a good day,” if an officer inputs a crime it will show up in about a week.
“This new system will give us crime data as soon as an officer starts typing a report,” he said.
Franklin said the first strategy session he led involved how to provide more supervisory support and guidance to the growing number of young officers on the streets because of employee turnover.
He called it a “glaring issue” and said he is working with division commanders to see how many sergeants or lieutenants are needed in the field and which desk duties can be eliminated to get them on the streets. The issue is prevalent on third shift — 2 p.m. to midnight — which is the busiest and most-staffed shift, he said.
Franklin noted Tuesday that he is less than two weeks in and that he needs support and time to get the ball rolling. He alluded to a number of initiatives in the works that he isn’t ready to make public yet.
“I really need an opportunity to get internally within my department and start delving deeper into some of these things and actually start putting action steps in place,” Franklin said, also referencing a public online dashboard feature to track progress. “And I already have people doing some of that, but there’s so much more that we’re trying to tackle, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”