By: Nate Morris
The Tulsa World published a bombshell article on Friday regarding a letter sent by the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) threatening a lawsuit if they were not granted the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the mayor’s proposed Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM).
The OIM, which the mayor announced just over a week ago, would be modeled after a similar office in Denver, CO and would operate independently of the Tulsa Police Department. The purpose of the office would be to serve as an advisory council and investigate issues of police misconduct on behalf of Tulsa citizens.
The board would have no direct sway in disciplining officers or changing department policy.
According to a letter obtained by the World through an open records act, FOP attorney James Moore indicated that implementing any changes to policing policy, including the creation of the OIM, must first be brought to the FOP as a part of their forthcoming bargaining agreement.
In a statement to the Black Wall Street Times, the Mayor pushed back on Moore’s assertion that OIM would directly interfere with daily police work.
“As I told the Council in my initial presentation on the Office of the Independent Monitor, it will be just that: independent. It will exist outside of the Police Department and it will not have direct policy or disciplinary authority over Police personnel.”
The mayor went on to state that “the citizens of Tulsa empower our officers to use force. I think we owe it to Tulsans to have experts independent of the Tulsa Police Department evaluating how that force is used…”
The Black Wall Street Times reached out to Mr. Moore and Jerad Lindsey, President of the FOP, for comment on the World’s story as well.
Mr. Lindsey stated that the letter sent to the Mayor’s office “was not meant for the general public,” but stated that he and the union look forward to engaging in dialogue and bargaining with Bynum “as we have countless other times as is required by law.”
“Mayor Bynum has gone out of his way to make sure all voices are heard,” said Lindsey, “and we look forward to being one of those voices.”
Attorney Moore affirmed the FOP’s threat of a lawsuit, saying in a written statement to the Times: “If one of the parties tries to do something that is not covered by the contract or change the contract it can lead to legal action to prevent or correct that.”
The statement did not indicate which part of the contract the OIM would breach, nor was that immediately clear in the Black Wall Street Times’ review of the latest bargaining agreement between the union and the city government.
Moore went on to say that the FOP “applauds the Mayor’s efforts to address racial issues in Tulsa,” but stated “it distracts from the real issues to act as if the Police Department is the problem,” citing widespread mistrust in city leadership within the Black community.
On behalf of the FOP, Moore then criticized the mayor for what he called “contradictory statements” about the OIM.
“He makes statements in the media about things he will not do but then says he wants to do what Denver does,” Moore’s statement read. “The solution is for us to quit talking to each other in the media and do so in person.”
Community advocates by-and-large backed the mayor’s proposal, calling the OIM a good step toward true reform, while also reiterating the need for additional, continued efforts to address racial disparities in the city’s policing practices – including public hearings on the city’s equality indicators.
The mayor, in his statement, pointed to the larger need for the OIM, stating “every person in our community should want greater transparency and continuous improvement. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Council in the months ahead to develop a program that will deliver both.”
Nate Morris is the senior editor of the Black Wall Street Times. Nate was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area and moved to Tulsa in 2012 after graduating from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. He received his Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2015. Nate is a Teach for America alumnus and has worked in schools throughout the Tulsa area.