Published 01/10/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 40 sec
By Hailey Rae, Contributing Writer
Three years ago, I wrote my first article for The Black Wall Street Times titled Community Policing Missteps and the Culture of Superiority within the Fraternal Order of Police.
Back then, I was a young and ambitious social work student with a lot of opinions. I was fearless in my pursuit of social justice. And of course, I’m still passionate and opinionated as ever. Nevertheless, I took three years to observe and learn from community leaders, mentors, and colleagues.
In 2019 I was not as active in the community as I was in previous years. I became more invigorated from the sidelines as I watched community leaders, citizens, and activists fight against white supremacy in awe of their passion and determination.
Towards the end of 2019, I slowly started attending City Council meetings and community events again.
This past Wednesday night at Rudisill Regional Library, I saw my heroes boldly and fearlessly speak the truth to Mayor GT Bynum at a town hall event titled “Give your Input on the Next Police Chief.” I listened as the Mayor proudly proclaimed progress on the 77 Recommendations on Community Policing, a program implemented by the Tulsa Commission on Community Policing in 2017.
At the mention of the 77 Recommendations, I reviewed my old article at the public forum, and I began to cry tears of anger. Those around me probably assumed I was crying because I was sad or overly emotional, which is partly true. But I was also crying because I have heard many of the brave speakers repeat the same narrative to the Mayor and City Council for nearly four years to no avail.
I listened to Mayor Bynum angrily state that he would not end the contract with Live PD, a program that exploits Tulsa’s most vulnerable citizens.
I watched fearless young People of Color demand a seat at the table for the hiring process for the next Police Chief. I watched Native women recount stories of domestic violence and kidnapping while being mocked and discarded by law enforcement.
Noticeably, I witnessed the resilience of Greenwood and the north Tulsa community. Their resilience and determination never cease to amaze me, and I’m in awe of the everyday activists that refuse to let their community be silenced, overlooked, nor destroyed.
In 1921 Tulsa attempted to silence Greenwood forever. And when their efforts didn’t succeed, Black Tulsans were systematically incarcerated in an attempt to control a people whose resilience has inspiringly stood the test of time.
I suppose what I want to say is: Nothing has actually changed in policing, TPD’s policies and Tulsa’s city government from 2017 — when I first began closely examining Tulsa’s community policing efforts — till now. All of the efforts that the public sees were planned behind the scenes by activists and citizens who would not and will not be silent because their community is over-policed, scrutinized, and portrayed as being a “high crime” area on television shows like Live PD.
I have no doubt that this fight will continue for the rest of my lifespan because it’s the same battle that Civil Rights Activists and People of Color have fought throughout U.S. history. I also know that the Black community’s resilience will not be dampened or deterred by bureaucracy and the promise of a better Police Chief.
Black Tulsans and those in attendance at Wednesday night’s public forum know that actions speak louder than words.
Countless speakers echoed the statistics presented in the 2017 Equality Indicators Report that Black Tulsans are twice as likely to be arrested by law enforcement than White Tulsans. Speakers of color also confirmed that they are more likely to be victims of police brutality than White Tulsans.
Finally, attendees and speakers seemingly agreed that one public forum in North Tulsa and four hours of implicit bias training for Tulsa police officers won’t undo a history of white supremacy and generational trauma caused by slavery and the 1921 Greenwood Massacre.
Hailey Rae is a graduate of Northeastern State University’s Social Work program. Ms. Ferguson is well-known for her contributions to the harm reduction movement in Oklahoma. Ms. Ferguson is dedicated to improving lives of all Tulsans and she currently participates in outreach and advocacy for persons experiencing homelessness, people who use drugs, and sex workers. She is the Director of Social Media for Stop Harm on Tulsa Streets and she volunteers with many organizations committed to social justice and decreasing stigma about mental illness and addiction.