Transparency in the Tulsa Police Department

Transparency in the Tulsa Police Department

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Erich Manning started this petition to Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin

Mr.  Wendell Franklin
Chief of Police
Tulsa Police Department Internal Affairs
600 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK 74103

Dear Chief Franklin:

We, the under-signed members of our shared alma mater, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa, Oklahoma, earnestly implore that you please reconsider your position and the comments made concerning the police department’s decision that the public will have no say in the development of any new use-of-force  policy.   

Positive police reform is now taking place all across the country, and rightfully so.  Many problems have gone unchanged for far too long, both in Tulsa and nationwide, and the public has a right to set limits on the authority that police have over them. Some limits are set in the constitution, others by local laws. Now is not the time to turn a deaf ear to what the public is saying, because when police do not listen, innocent people get killed by police.

One quote that was found to be disturbing is the following:

"The question was if there was going to be community input allowed in our policy decision-making, and the answer to that is no," Franklin said, in response to a question from Councilor Lori Decter Wright.

"I think that we are paid a salary to be the professionals, and be the ones that know the ins and outs of policing and what's going on. Again, I've mentioned before, of ceding authority to us to allow us to do that, and we will use best practices and things of that nature to drive our decision-making."

(Quoted from Public Radio Tulsa )

While it is always prudent to trust an expert concerning matters in their field of expertise, tribalism can lead to an echo chamber of bad ideas wherein one never finds fault within one’s own group. The quote above seems to insinuate that only police know what is best for the public and that police should be able to dictate policy unilaterally, while in fact the opposite is true; reasonable adults have the right to decide how much power police have, and how they should be treated by police.

The article above listed a police funded study  called “A Multi-Method Investigation of Officer Decision-Making and Force Used or Avoided in Arrest Situations”. This police funded report predictably concluded that there is no racial bias in policing.  In contrast, a study by independent group Human Rights watch in 2019 called ““Get on the Ground!”: Policing, Poverty, and Racial Inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma” concluded from a large amount of data, that officers in Tulsa absolutely follow a pattern of over-policing neighborhoods of color, while having a very small presence in white neighborhoods.

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The contrast between these two reports is a prime example as to why public input is needed. No public servant or group should ever be their own judge, because one’s own bias will always be self serving and no one will ever vote to hold themselves accountable. We must always have checks and balances in our government and institutions that uphold our laws and protect our populace.

Without checks and balances, the lack of accountability can warp a person’s perspective beyond all logic and reason.  There are a number of ideas coming out of the Tulsa Police Department that are troubling, ideas that would benefit from feedback from the public.

Recently, Chief Franklin, you were quoted as saying that displaying a weapon can count as a de-escalation.  This is a bizarrely incorrect opinion, as it asserts that humans feel somehow safer and calmer when their life is being threatened with a lethal weapon.  

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You are also on record as saying that requiring officers to file reports might cause a hesitation  before using a firearm.  Most people that are not police officers would probably appreciate it if an officer thought twice before threatening someone’s life. There should be a hesitation there, because police don't have the right to kill innocent people, and everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

In June of 2020, there was a widely publicized incident where body cam footage showed two white officers manhandling, handcuffing, taunting and assaulting two young black men for the alleged crime of walking down a residential street where there is no sidewalk.  No punishment has been announced for the officers, and the silence of the Chief of Police on this matter is deafening.  I wonder Chief Franklin, if you would be as silent if it were your own boys that were attacked and roughed up by your officers.

Opinions like these and a culture like this is precisely why we need to have an Office of Independent Monitor as it exists in Denver, Colorado. We also need to have a police reform bill that includes all of the variables of the recent Police reform bill, Senate Bill 217, that was passed in Denver.

Oversight of public servants is a key component to a free and just society.  Being open to public input, and taking meaningful action to change policing tactics based upon that input (as opposed to ignoring and watering down demands), is paramount to the transparency that the Tulsa Police Department has promised the public.

Chief Franklin, if you are truly using “Best Practices” as you say your department adheres to, then you should know that one of the Best Practices for a police department to have is to “engage the community in training and policy development.”  Community inclusion has many benefits for all, the Police Department, the City of Tulsa , and its citizens.

We, the undersigned alumni of Booker T. Washington High School of Tulsa, Oklahoma, respectfully request that you change your position on this matter.

Respectfully yours,
Booker T. Washington Alumni 

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