North Tulsans press for a larger say in who the next police chief will be (copy)

Tulsa Crime Stoppers Executive Director Karen Gilbert and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum take notes during a town hall meeting at Rudisill Regional Library on Wednesday about what is wanted in the next Tulsa police chief. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

Mayor G.T. Bynum did the right thing by asking the public’s advice on what they want in a new police chief.

He needs to continue that process by re-engaging the public once he has narrowed down his leading prospects for the job.

Last week, Bynum hosted three public hearings in north, midtown and south Tulsa to take public comment on how to replace retiring Chief Chuck Jordan. Seven eligible TPD commanders have applied for the job; Bynum also has the option of taking outside applicants later.

The public feedback Bynum has received on the process has been vigorous, challenging at times, and not always consistent. Many of the comments in the public meetings have centered around a very important issue — that the next chief must be sensitive to the role race has historically played in policing in Tulsa and has a strategy to improve race relations in that regard.

Tulsa is engaged in the process and has a lot of healthy ideas about how it should go.

Much of the advice Bynum has received has been, by definition, generic. At the meetings, the public was invited to tell Bynum what sort of police chief they want, but they weren’t able to give him any specific feedback on candidates Bynum is seriously considering, because no one knows who they are.

When Bynum settles on a list of two or three finalists for the job, he should invite each of them to stand before the public to answer questions about their experience and their vision for the police department. Any candidates who aren’t willing to take part in that sort of discussion should be thanked for their interest in the position, and the process should continue without them.

The analogy to purchasing a home seems apropos. When the process starts, you tell a Realtor what sort of house you want, your price range, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need and what amenities aren’t all that important to you. But before you buy a house, you walk through it, you have inspectors check the roof and the plumbing, you sit out front in your car and imagine if this is a place you can call home.

Throughout his career, Bynum has been a model of transparency as a local leader. His efforts to use public input in shaping city capital packages have been exemplary, and those efforts have been rewarded with public support — for the capital proposals and for Bynum. We urge him to carry through on that momentum by keeping the public engaged in the chief selection process to the end.

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