The union representing Tulsa police officers remains opposed to Mayor G.T. Bynum’s police oversight proposal, a top official with the organization said last week.
“We’re still not in favor of it, is the way that it currently stands, because of what it has become in other cities,” said Jared Lindsey, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93 board of directors. “And we don’t see anything in the current ordinance that prevents these issues from arising here.”
The City Council is expected to vote later this month on the mayor’s plan to create an Office of the Independent Monitor. The office would be charged with following up on complaints about police and reviewing police Internal Affairs investigations of use-of-force incidents; reviewing best practices for police and making policy recommendations; and conducting community outreach.
Lindsey said union members are not opposed to oversight but think the program Bynum is proposing could have unintended consequences. The proposal draws from, but is not identical to, the Office of the Independent Monitor in Denver.
“It took us all of a couple of hours to call down there and find out from the people who actually work there and do the job that this started out with the best of intentions but then over time it became a political tool of those that sit in the office of a strong mayoral form of government, and this would allow that, as well,” Lindsey said.
Bynum said Lindsey’s concern would not apply to the person overseeing Tulsa’s OIM program because that person would be a civil service employee.
“As the draft ordinance makes clear, the independent monitor in Tulsa would be a civil service employee — just like the chief of police,” Bynum said. “Our civil service system in Tulsa is designed to protect employees from issues of political patronage.”
Lindsey is also concerned that the mayor’s proposal has the potential to put Internal Affairs in the middle of political fights.
“We want somebody that we have no control over and that the mayor and the City Council — nobody has got sway over,” he said.
The mayor’s proposed ordinance creating the OIM gives the office the option of contracting with a third party, such the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, to do the work.
Bynum said he agrees that the OSBI would do a good job with Internal Affairs reviews but that he thinks having city employees doing the work would create less opportunity for conflicts.
“This isn’t a case of having a good option and a bad option,” the mayor said. “It is a case of having a good option and a better option.”
The OIM, or an entity contracted by OIM, would have 10 days to complete its review of a use-of-force investigation. The review would be limited to whether the investigation was done thoroughly and properly. The OIM would have no authority to recommend or impose discipline on officers.
Lindsey noted that the FOP is not the only organization that has advocated for the OSBI’s involvement.
“We are not against oversight. In fact, we welcome it,” Lindsey said. “But we still support and welcome the oversight that was requested by Councilor (Vanessa) Hall-Harper and 50 other north Tulsa leaders, including the (NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund), which is contracting with the state agency to do that oversight, instead of adding the bureaucracy of city government and the cost.”
Hall-Harper and a group of Tulsans sent a letter to Bynum and the City Council last year after the release of the Equality Indicators report. The letter demanded reforms to police practices, including using an independent agency such as the OSBI to review in-custody deaths and police use-of-force incidents resulting in death or injury.
“They wanted it till we wanted it,” Lindsey said. “Now that we want it, they don’t want it.”
Lorene Bible on the newly resumed search for her daughter Lauria Bible