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- City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper proposes public hearings, concerning disparity in officer-use-of force on Tulsa’s Black residents.
- City Councilors Vanessa-Hall-Harper, Kara Joy McKee, and Lori Decter Wright believe public hearings will boost morale for the Tulsa Police Department.
- City Councilor Jeanie Cue concerned that TPD officers will feel as though they are on trial and is concerned about funding for experts to probe.
- NAACP LDF, prominent institutions, and community leaders support Vanessa Hall-Harper’s decision to hold public hearings.
- Vanessa Hall-Harper is for comprehensive community policing strategies
On May 31, 2018, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in agreement with civil rights attorneys, religious leaders, elected officials, law enforcement officials and community activists, sent a letter addressed to Tulsa’s Mayor, G.T. Bynum, and City Council Chair, the late David Patrick, concerning findings in the Equality Indicators report.
The collective, agreed-upon letter was in response to the city’s Tulsa Equality Indicators Annual Report 2018, which found that “in the City of Tulsa’s justice system, Black residents are arrested over twice as often as White residents, and Blacks are five times as likely to be victims of officer use of force than all other racial and ethnic groups,” while only making-up 16 percent of city’s population.
For Tulsa’s Black residents, the date in the report verified the long-understood and alarming undercurrent of racial injustice in the city, prompting calls for more police accountability, transparency, and reforms to TPD’s policies.
Since the officer-involved shooting death of Terence Crutcher, confidence in the Tulsa Police Department among Tulsa’s Black residents has declined.
Community’s recommendations for the City of Tulsa to boost TPD’s morale
The NAACP LDF along with various, prominent institutions, organizations, and community leaders assembled a list of recommendations.
At the January 16th public meeting, the council will take up one of those recommendations and vote on whether or not to “hold public hearings to investigate the recent finding in the Tulsa Equality Indicators report and solicit more information and recommendations from the public about TPD’s use-of-force and arrest practices.”
Councilors’ Opinion on Public Hearings
At the city’s Urban and Economic Development Committee Meeting on January 9th, District One City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper pushed back on concerns from her fellow counselors, stating that the public hearings are not designed to be adversarial. Harper stated she believes that it is the city’s responsibility to hold public hearings regarding the report’s findings which show clear disparities along racial lines in the interactions between police officers and Tulsa’s citizens.
Councilor Hall-Harper said that the public hearings would be orderly and would include city councilors along with experts on successful comprehensive community policing policies. The council would be able to ask the Tulsa Police Department relevant questions concerning the report’s findings in a public setting.
Councilor Jeannie Cue’s Public Hearing Concerns
At the same meeting, District Two Councilor Jeannie Cue stated that she received calls from Tulsa police officers, indicating that the Tulsa Police Department doesn’t want to feel that they are being put on trial.
“Some of them [referring to TPD officers] would be very upset, and it would cause low morale — just to feel like they were put in a court-like setting and have to answer questions,” Councilor Cue explained.
Councilor Cue is also concerned that it would cost money to have experts appear before the city council at the hearings.
Councilors Kara Joy McKee’s and Lori Decter Wright’s Opinions on Public Hearings
District Four Councilor Kara Joy McKee stated in the meeting that she hopes the public hearings would boost morale for TPD and believes it will allow for the city councilors to be the liaison between the community and the police department.
“What I’m seeing happen is a lot of misunderstanding within the community about what’s going on; what’s happening in Tulsa versus other communities. And, I’m very hopeful that this being an open, transparent, clear, public process — where we’re having these questions answered — would give our [TPD] officers the opportunity to really validate the findings and give us some more understanding of what is going on here so that they can feel listened to.”
“Many feel that they are not being listened to right now. And I get that from other members in the community as well, and public hearings would give the city council the opportunity to be that liaison — opening up space where people can be heard on both sides.”
“There’s always that fear —telling the truth hurting morale, but we’ve seen in many communities a real open truth and reconciliation process end other types of conflicts and build morale and trust. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
“I think that we’ve done our community a disservice by letting it fester for so long,” McKee, stated — referring to the much-needed conversations about the racial disparities in policing throughout the city.
The new city councilor form District 7, Lori Decter Wright, agreed with McKee.
“I do feel that time is of the essence,” she stated, “A new report will be coming forth in April, and I think we are doing a disservice to our community if we just let the first indicators slide by.”
The following national and local organizations have voiced support for Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper’s public hearing request proposal:
Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President & Director Counsel NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, Attorney, Of Counsel Riggs, Abney, Neal, Orbinson, Turpen, & Lewis
Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, President Terence Crutcher Foundation
Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper City of Tulsa, District One
Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director Oklahoma ACLU
Sen. Kevin Matthews ,Oklahoma State Senate
Drew Diamond, Former Chief of Police Tulsa Police Department
Rep. Regina Goodwin, Oklahoma State Representative
David Blatt, Ph.D., Executive Director Oklahoma Policy Institute
Rep. Monroe Nichols Oklahoma State Representative
Dr. Ray Owens, Senior Pastor Metropolitan Baptist Church
Danny Williams, Former US Attorney U.S. District Court, Northern District of Oklahoma
Richard Baxter, President Racism Stinks
Thomas Boxley, Executive Director The Institute for Developing Communities
Layla Caldwell, Pastor United Coalition of Ministers
Rev. Joey Crutcher, Sr., Father of Terence Crutcher
Rev. Jamaal Dyer, Community Activist
Nehemiah Frank, Editor-In-Chief, Black Wall Street Times
James (Jim) Goodwin, Oklahoma Eagle Newspaper
Dr. Rodney Goss, Senior Pastor Morning Star Baptist Church
Tracy Love, President Love & Associates
David Riggs, Senior Partner
Riggs, Abney, Neal, Orbinson, Turpen, & Lewis
Shea Seals, Tulsa Basketball Legend
Sarah Smith-Moore, Aware Tulsa
Rev. M.C. Potter, Senior Pastor Antioch Baptist Church
Chief Egunwale Amusan, African Ancestral Society
Monya Brown, Community Activist
Darryl Bright, President C.U.B.E.S., Inc.
Mrs. Leanna Crutcher, Mother of Terence Crutcher
Anthony Douglas, State President Oklahoma State NAACP
Hailey Ferguson, Community Activist
Caleb Gayle, Community Activist
Pastor Scott Gordon, Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church
Angela Graham, Candidate Oklahoma House District 66
Nate Morris, Board Member, Terence Crutcher Foundation
Greg Robinson, Community Activist
Pastors Terry & Barbara Shannon, New Heights Christian Center
Robin Steinberg, Executive Director Still She Rises, LLC