Faced with political headwinds, Mayor G.T. Bynum has pulled his plan to establish an independent, civilian-led city office to monitor Tulsa police uses of force.
Three city councilors and the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police openly opposed the mayor’s Office of Independent Monitor idea. Two other councilors didn’t think the mayor’s plan went far enough.
The plan was for an independent monitor to follow up on citizen complaints about police and review internal TPD investigations of use-of-force incidents. The monitor would also review best practices for law enforcement, make policy recommendations and conduct community outreach.
We backed the mayor’s plan as an important effort to solve TPD’s problem with a significant portion of the public it serves. A Gallup survey of Tulsans shortly before the mayor released his proposal found that only 18% of black Tulsans say they trust TPD a lot and 53% disagree or strongly disagree with the idea that police treat people like them fairly.
A counterproposal by City Councilor Connie Dodson to have the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation review internal affairs investigation wouldn’t solve much as we see it. If black Tulsans don’t trust police officers, it’s hard to see how the problem is solved by having police officers reviewing police officers who investigate police officers.
We urge Bynum not to give up on the issue. He has told councilors that his office is working on a less divisive way to address the same issues. We urge him not to give up on civilian leadership and independence as critical elements in whatever solution he turns to.
The city gives police guns, badges and an enormous amount of authority. With that power comes responsibility, including that officers follow a long set of rules and answer to civilian oversight. Bynum had a good plan; we urge him to replace it with a better one.
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