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Tulsa City Councilors delay Black lives 48 days

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  • New City Councilors, Cass Fahler and Crista Patrick, proudly admit that they receive donations from the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police, seemingly planning to vote against public accountability police hearings 
  • Police Accountability Hearing’s Vote delayed until March
  • Phil Lakin offered a new police Task Force in place of Hall-Harper’s police accountability hearings to deal with racial disparities, despite city’s past Task Forces that failed to solve the racial disparities issues in TPD 
  • Imperfections found and spotlighted in the City’s 77 Recommendations for police accountability

BWSTimes Staff

Wednesday night’s city council meeting was yet another disappointment to Tulsa’s Black residents.

Council Chair Phil Lakin, of District 8, and new City Councilor Crista Patrick, of District 3, seemingly cornered Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, forcing Harper to table her vote for police accountability hearings.

The community asked Councilor Harper to hold public hearings following the 2018 Tulsa Equality Indicator report that highlighted the growing crisis of officer use of force on Black residents from Tulsa Police officers.

The Equality Indicators elevated that Black residents in Tulsa are five times more likely to be the victims of officer use of force than their Brown counterparts. The report also revealed that White Tulsans are half as likely to experience officer use of force than Black Tulsans, which is alarming — considering that Black residents are only 10 percent of the city’s population.

The Equality Indicator report also spotlighted that, “Oklahoma traditionally leads the nation in arrest rates” and that, “Blacks residents are arrested over twice as often as Whites.”

The report also showed that Black juveniles are more than three times as likely to be arrested as White juveniles in the city of Tulsa — this following a report that pointed to 1 in 7 Black students having been suspended in 2017 in Tulsa Public Schools.

The city of Tulsa hasn’t been great for Black Tulsans. Black resident’s describe living in a state of constant fear of being pulled over by TPD officers. 

Since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the recent ‘modern-day public lynching’ of Terence Crutcher, Black Tulsa’s trust in the Tulsa Police Department has been on a sharp decline.

City councilors Vanessa Hall-Harper, Lori Decter Wright, and Kara Joy McKee were hoping to make a difference in police accountability and morale today by voting for the public hearings, which would give the city’s police department the opportunity to explain the extreme racial disparities in their report, which was delayed by Chairman Phil Lakin and Councilor Christa Patrick.

Nine citizens passionately spoke in favor of holding public hearings.

Laura Bellis, a member of the Tulsa United League for Social Action, spotlighted some of the issues with the city’s 77 recommendations which was created to build trust between the city’s Black community and Tulsa Police Department and lower the racial disparities and biases within TPD.

“I applaud the mayor for taking this [Police Accountability] on so early and acknowledging how important police reform is. And I will always support efforts that seek justice and are best practice aligned and data-informed. The resulting 77 recommendations are imperfect in multiple ways. They don’t fully align to the President’s Task Force on Community Policing in the 21st century, they are fairly immeasurable, and they yielded little policy change,” Bellis said to the council.

After the implementation of the 77 recommendations for the Tulsa Police Department, racial disparities still linger in officer use of force and arrest.

Council Chair Phil Lakin suggested starting another task force to deal with the disparities.

Nate Morris reminded the City Councilors that in 2010 Tulsa City Councilors voted to create a task force to deal with the racial disparity study.

“Because it [the task force] happened behind closed doors because it didn’t happen in public, we weren’t able to hold our leaders accountable and when administrations shifted, and priorities shifted that work wasn’t able to be brought to fruition,” Morris explained.

Kristi Williams, a community activist and member of the African American Affairs Commission, accused the city of Tulsa from profiting off the racial disparities and called the community police program ‘whitewashed.’

“It is a dog and pony show. It is insulting. I am not satisfied that this council wouldn’t send our only Black city councilor to a [community policing] conference to learn the best practices of community policing. I am not satisfied that the community had to come out of their pocket to pay [for the city councilor to attend the community policing conference,” Williams explained.

In 2018, Tulsa indirectly made their Black residents pay for their city councilor, Vanessa Hall-Harper, to attend a police conference in Florida.

Councilor Jeanie Cue stated that she wasn’t comfortable holding public hearings because she was unclear as to the format in how the public hearings would run and wanted to know who the councilors would be questioning — this after Councilor Hall-Harper stated in two different city council meetings that the city councilors themselves would assemble the formatting of the hearings.

Some residents blame the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police for having too much influence on some city councilors during election season and while serving the public as a counselor.

Jerad Lindsey, the Chairmen of Tulsa’s FOP lodge, was present in tonight’s city council meeting.

Councilor Patrick glanced in his direction several times when she addressed the mostly Black crowd, stating that she too was uncomfortable at having a public police hearing, she later admitted to receiving donations from the FOP.

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