Local community leaders and elected officials gathered outside City Hall on Monday morning to denounce the city’s participation in the “Live PD” television show.
“It is a shame; it is a travesty; it is embarrassing that in a city that knows the damage police can do when they are not on the side of the citizens, that we would allow something like that to happen,” said community organizer Gregory Robinson II.
City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, state Rep. Regina Goodwin, former Police Chief Drew Diamond and about two dozen other people joined Robinson at a news conference to discuss the television program and Mayor G.T. Bynum’s process for selecting a new police chief.
Hall-Harper noted that last week during a town hall meeting Bynum refused to commit to ending the Police Department’s involvement in the television show. She said she stands in solidarity with those who want to see it go away.
“We want an immediate end to ‘Live PD,’ ” she said.
The city’s agreement with “Live PD” is handled by the Mayor’s Office. The City Council has no legal authority to determine whether the city should participate in the program.
Several speakers at last week’s town hall meetings urged the mayor to end the city’s participation in the program, saying it reflected poorly on the city and its residents and preyed on the most vulnerable.
Goodwin said rather than the Police Department participate in “Live PD,” officers should turn on their body cameras and their dash cameras.
“For all of the officers who are doing the right thing, God bless them,” she said. “But for those officers who continue to prey on this community — that’s what we’re saying — turn your body camera on; turn on your dash cam. (Then) you got your ‘Live PD.’
“And we want a mayor and a chief that is going to make sure there are consequences if those body cameras and dash cams are not on.”
Bynum declined to comment Monday, but he has said previously that he believes the show gives those who wish to watch a chance to see the diverse range of issues officers deal with on a daily basis and to decide for themselves how those situations were handled.
“My concern is this: I have seen in the last year how two people viewing one police encounter can have completely different understandings of what that encounter was,” Bynum said Friday.
He added that he empathizes with those concerned that some of the people appearing on “Live PD” are in vulnerable positions, but he noted that the Police Department has the ability to restrict coverage if it thinks it’s appropriate to do so.
“They only film in the public domain,” the mayor said. “So this is not something only ‘Live PD’ has the ability to do. Anybody could walk up and record someone who is in a difficult situation.”
It is impossible to truly appreciate and understand the range of situations Tulsa police officers deal with every day until you see it, Bynum said.
“This is just one other way for people to access that,” he said.
Former Police Chief Drew Diamond, who served from 1987 to 1991, also called for an end to the city’s participation in the show on Monday.
“Policing is not about entertainment. If you in the news media want to be in the car, you can be in the car. That’s news; this is about entertainment,” he said. “They are using the officers and the city for entertainment value. It’s bad policing; it’s bad policy; and it needs to be stopped.”
Monday’s news conference was organized by Demanding a JUSTulsa and ACTION, local community action groups encouraging more transparency and public participation in the selection process for a new police chief.
A letter outlining community concerns about the selection process and “Live PD” was sent to Bynum on Friday. It was signed by more than 200 people, including Hall-Harper, Goodwin, state Sen. Kevin Matthews and state Rep. Monroe Nichols.