For all of the talk about Equality Indicators reports in the past 15 months, no numbers have generated more controversy than those detailing police use of force.
Some African-Americans, and others, point to the figures to support their claim that the police are racially biased; the police reject that assertion, and contend the numbers in the report are skewed.
The City Council on Wednesday will try to sort it all out.
The council’s second Equality Indicators special meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in Doenges Theatre at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St. The public is encouraged to use the Second Street entrance. No public comments will be taken.
The topic will be racial disparities in police use of force and current practices to improve outcomes.
Fewer than 10 people signed up to give public comments on police use of force at last week’s City Council meeting. Councilors will use those remarks to inform their questions for panelists Wednesday.
The panelists are Melanie Poulter, Equality Indicators project manager at the Community Service Council; Jennifer Lynn Eberhardt, psychology professor at Stanford University and author of the book “Biased”; Michael W. Brose, director of Mental Health Association Oklahoma; Chief Egunwale Fagbenro Amusan, president of the Tulsa African Ancestral Society; and Deputy Chief Jonathan Brooks and Capt. Thaddeus Espy of the Tulsa Police Department.
After the city’s first Equality Indicators report was issued last April, more than 50 Tulsans joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in demanding that the City Council hold public hearings on the report. Of particular concern to those who signed the letter were the report’s findings of racial disparities in police practices.
The city’s overall score in 2018 for Race and Officer Use of Force was 20 out of 100. The Equality Indicators report found that blacks are five times more likely to experience officer use of force than Hispanics, and whites are half as likely to experience use of force by police than blacks.
In 2019, the city’s score improved to 34 out of 100, with blacks three times more likely to experience officer use of force than either Hispanic/Latinos or whites.
The Police Department and the union representing officers, disagree with those numbers. They argue that the methodology used to determine them is flawed and that, in fact, African-Americans are no more likely to be subject to use of force than any other race.
The latest use-of-force figures provided by the Tulsa Police Department show that such instances are rare.
In 2017, police made 14,306 arrests, only 404 — or 2.8% — of which involved use of force.
Wednesday night’s meeting comes a week after Mayor G.T. Bynum and advocates for police accountability provided starkly different accounts of how the police Gang Unit interacted with residents of the Town Square Apartments in north Tulsa.
Speaking before the City Council, the advocates described the incident as harassment and accused police of terrorizing the same African-American population they claim to treat no differently than anyone else. The mayor defended the officers’ actions, saying they acted professional throughout.