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Rev. Dr. Robert Turner of the historic Vernon A.M.E. Chapel Church speaking at Tulsa City Hall on Monday, January 13, 2020, regarding the need for more transparency between the Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa community. | Photograph by Nehemiah D. Frank

Published 01/13/2020 | Reading Time 3 min 17 sec 

By BWSTimes Staff

Despite the frigid temperature, local and state dignitaries, faith leaders, and Tulsa community members held a press conference outside of Tulsa’s City Hall. Last Friday, they collectively delivered a letter to Mayor G.T. Bynum outlining calls for a citizen-centered police chief selection process and an end to the city’s contract with ‘Live PD.’

“This selection process for our next police chief must be transparent and participatory. This selection process must include a national search to ensure that our next chief is truly the best in the country,” Greg Robinson II, an organizer with Demanding a JusTulsa and a life-long north Tulsa resident, said.

The letter, which has already been signed by over 100 Tulsa residents, comes roughly a month after these elected leaders demanded citizen input be integrated into the selection process, calls on the Mayor to create a citizen selection committee to determine finalists, hold town halls with all candidates for public input and feedback and commit to hiring a police chief who will make creating an unbiased, equitable culture of policing their top priority. 

Currently, not even Tulsa city councilors have a role in helping Mayor Bynum choose the city’s next chief of police.

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“All my community wants is accountability, transparency, and fairness,” District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper said before adding, “Despite what has been said, District 1 is not anti-Police. We welcome good policing. We want to work with our law enforcement. We want to build trust, but we cannot do that without transparency and cooperation from city leadership — from the Mayor in this process.”

The letter also calls on the Mayor to honor the demand of Tulsans to immediately end his contract between the city and A&E’s Live PD television show.

The city councilwoman revealed during the press conference that neither Mayor Bynum nor the current chief of police consulted with her on the new Live PD contract, despite evidence of her district being over-policed. “We want an immediate end to Live PD,” she demanded. Hall-Harper’s majority-black district is the most impacted by policing. Blacks are five times more likely to have an encounter with a TPD officer despite being less than 13% of the population. 

A local journalist asked Robinson, “When Live PD came back, they changed things up. There is now a prominently displayed Black officer and a woman instead of just gangs. Has anything that’s changed improved your opinion about the show that was supposed to remedy what happened last time?”  

Robinson responded, “Let me speak to this as a Black man and a Tulsan, a lot of times policing gets conflated with ‘well, oh, well — if it was just a Black officer or oh if we just changed the race’ the fact of the matter is: It’s the culture of policing that we are attempting to change.” 

He added, “We believe in police, as their oath says, that they’re here to protect and serve citizens. That oath does not mention the exploitation of citizens at their worst. Whether their Black, brown, blue, or purple, whether they’re female, male, nonbinary — it doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is that Live PD does not represent something that we as Tulsans want to be true of our police force. And it is a shame and a travesty; it is an embarrassment that in a city that knows the damage that police can do when they’re not on the side of the citizens that we would allow something like that to happen. And for it to be done for entertainment value, it’s incredibly disheartening.” 

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Dr. Rev. Robert Turner, of the Historic Vernon Chapel A.M.E Church, expressed his concerns for his two Black sons and his disappointment in the continued corruption in TPD. 

“I personally have two sons, and I don’t want what Rev. Crutcher who is standing before me today having buried his on son. I don’t want to go through the same thing,” he expressed. He added, “We have a legacy of corruption in our police force, and it’s nothing new. This legacy of corruption has plagued this city. Yes, even the 1921 Race Massacre. Those were peace officers that went down and brought hell on Greenwood, and not one of them were charged with a crime. After the Massacre, evidence was given to the Tulsa Police Department, and none of that was seen by ‘you’ the press. That is criminal! And I personally posed a question to the Mayor about finding that evidence. To this day, we still don’t have the evidence from the worst crime in American, not just Tulsa history, but American history. Not one shred of evidence,” referring to the missing box of photographs the Tulsa Police Department possed during the ’70s that contained a photo of one of the mass graves of black massacre victims. “Your job is to keep evidence. How could something that valuable go missing?” 

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...