Mayor G.T. Bynum’s plan to create an independent city office to review police internal affairs investigations of use-of-force situations, make policy recommendations and act as a liaison to the community is facing some opposition on the City Council.
City Councilor Connie Dodson has proposed an alternative: A city contract with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to review use-of-force incidents. Dodson also has proposed creating a citizen advisory committee.
Dodson’s proposal would be less expensive, but less permanent and, we think, accomplish less.
The annualized cost for Bynum’s plan is $500,000 (a tiny fraction of the city’s $120-million-a-year police budget). An OSBI contract would probably cost the city about $100,000 a year, but any future mayor could simply cancel the contract and end the effort. Bynum’s plan could create a civil service-protected wing of city government that would be much more difficult to eliminate in the future.
The biggest problem with Dodson’s plan is that it would essentially amount to police investigating police, which is less effective as a means of building public confidence in the system. OSBI would only take up investigations in Tulsa at the request of the local police chief. While we admire Chief Chuck Jordan as a man of integrity, having the chief in charge of what gets outside oversight undermines the perception of independence from the beginning.
We need to remember that a Gallup survey of Tulsans released in January found that only 18% of black residents say they trust TPD a lot and 53% of black Tulsans said they disagree or strongly disagree with the idea that police treat people like them fairly.
A strong, professional, permanent, civilian oversight process within city government is the better way to improve those disturbing perceptions.
Dodson’s proposal is better than what we have now, which is nothing, but Bynum’s plan is the better way to ensure effective use-of-force oversight, and we continue to support it.
Tulsa City Councilors offered a forum recently on the Equality Indicators report, which uses 54 equality measures that compare outcomes of groups likely to experience inequalities.