Mayor G.T. Bynum said police videos released Friday “effectively capture” what he saw when he accompanied members of the Tulsa Police Department’s Gang Unit to a north Tulsa apartment complex on Tuesday night.
At a City Council meeting Wednesday, Bynum defended officers’ actions after several speakers told councilors that the officers had swarmed the complex and harassed residents who were doing nothing wrong.
On Friday, Bynum said the videos show that “officers are professional and respectful throughout” their time at the Town Square Apartments, 1614 E. Young St.
The videos do not capture every officer’s actions that night.
The focus of the City Council meeting was the city’s Equality Indicators reports, which state that African American residents are more likely to experience use of force by police officers than other Tulsans — a contention disputed by the Police Department and the police union.
Seven speakers showed up to discuss the issue, with several pointing to the Police Department’s strong presence at the apartment complex and the officers’ interactions with residents there as an example of unnecessary and excessive force.
“I’m trying to figure out how on a Tuesday evening there are six police cars with Gang Unit vests on harassing teenagers in a parked car. … This is terrorism that I saw yesterday,” Gregory Robinson II said at the council meeting Wednesday.
After the meeting, Tiffany Crutcher expressed the same frustration, telling Bynum, “What would you feel if all of these (police) cars came from nowhere and swarmed around this one car? Does it take six officers to check a VIN number? … That’s excessive force. That’s what we’re talking about.”
Crutcher and other activists were at the apartment complex that night to encourage people to share their views about the Equality Indicators’ findings with the City Council the next evening.
The police videos released Friday show multiple officers and multiple vehicles at the scene. In one video, an officer questions two young men in a car and another man outside a car. One car’s vehicle identification number is covered with paper, something commonly done when a car has been stolen, the officer can be heard saying on the video.
“I’m not saying it is (stolen); that’s why” police check, the officer tells the people with the car.
The videos show Cpl. Rusty Brown explaining to activist Nat Wachowski-Estes that the Gang Unit goes to the Town Square Apartments frequently because a lot of violent crime happens there and that often the victims are innocent bystanders.
The videos do not answer with any certainty whether Brown was disrespectful and condescending to a group of women, as was alleged at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
One of those women, Crutcher, told Bynum after the meeting that the officer did not treat her properly.
“I asked the officer a question about the Equality (Indicators) report,” Crutcher said. “He was very condescending to me and talked down and said, ‘I am not going to get into a debate with you.’ When Nat (Wachowski-Estes), who’s a white guy, when he spoke, he (Brown) had a conversation with him. … That triggered me. That upset me.”
Bynum told Crutcher on Wednesday that he would review the video, saying the officer shouldn’t have been condescending.
The videos provided by police show only one interaction between Brown and Crutcher, lasting approximately 48 seconds. There is no sound for the first 30 seconds because the audio is not activated on the officer’s camera until the officer presses a button to start recording.
“Who are we harassing?” Brown can be heard asking Crutcher.
“I didn’t say you were harassing anything. I’m answering her question,” Crutcher responds. “So you can keep that little snide tone.”
“Whoa, just asking a question.”
“You’re being sarcastic is what you’re doing,” Crutcher says.
“OK. Well, have a good day, OK?” Brown says.
“You have a good day, too,” Crutcher responds.
“Thank you, ma’am.” Brown says.
In another police video, Crutcher can be seen handing a man a card and instructing him about the importance of understanding his rights while interacting with officers.
“First of all, I need for you to know your rights,” Crutcher says.
“I don’t even know none of them,” the man responds.
“Well, you need to learn them,” Crutcher says. She then emphasizes that the man should “respect the police” during encounters before telling him he’s not obligated to consent to searches and that he should seek legal counsel when needed.
“Be respectful,” she says. “Be respectful.”
Crutcher said Friday that she had seen the police videos, but she declined to comment except to say the police failed to provide video of an earlier exchange between her and Brown. It was during that exchange, she said, when Brown was sarcastic and condescending.
Bynum said Friday that it was difficult to draw any conclusions about Brown’s interactions with Crutcher from the brief video but that the officer acted professionally in the other nearly 30 minutes he is on camera.
In another video, Wachowski-Estes tells Brown that the officer is speaking to him much differently than he did to Crutcher.
“Dr. Crutcher seemed to be pretty irritated or upset. … I think she’s on Facebook or she’s on something and she is sitting there, I think, trying to, well, I don’t know what the word is,” Brown says. “The way she’s talking about us harassing people. We’re not harassing anybody.”
Brown goes on to encourage Wachowski-Estes and anyone else who believes they have been harassed by officers to request body-cam video of the incident.
“I promise you, all the cops in our department do not want to have cops out there going rogue, doing stupid things, violating people’s rights,” Brown says.