The Black Wall Street Times Editorial Board
TULSA, OK – In spite of mounting community backlash and a growing call for Mayor Bynum to end the city’s contract allowing the Live PD television show, the mayor has remained steadfast in his support of the program.
Live PD, a show broadcasting on the A&E network, follows police officers around as they stop, search and arrest individuals on camera in cities across the nation. In 2016, the city of Tulsa decided to end its contract with the program after community members voiced deep concern over the show’s targeting of Black and brown communities.
Three years later, Mayor Bynum made the decision to bring the show back to Tulsa. The mayor claims that he brought the show back only after establishing preconditions that the show film multiple officers citywide, though some in the police department state that this new plan for filming originated from TPD leadership only after the mayor decided to renew the contract.
Community members confronted Mayor Bynum at a town hall at Rudisill Library on January 8th, calling on him to end the city’s contract with the program – for which the city is not compensated.
At that meeting, Bynum told community members flatly that he would not end the contract because he wanted “people to see what our officers have to deal with on a daily basis”.
However innocuous, this representation of Tulsans, particularly Black and brown residents, as something to be dealt with struck a deep and disappointing cord with many across the city.
Bynum, however, continued his support of Live PD even after elected officials and three hundred community members signed a public letter calling for, among other things, an immediate end to the show’s contract.
Soon after, the mayor’s rationale for continuing the show seemed to shift as he made frequent reference to a personal disagreement he had with community members in an incident at the Towne Square apartments last year while on a ride along. Bynum stated in multiple interviews that this personal disagreement convinced him to renew the contract with the network in order to allow people to watch Tulsa officers and residents on the show and “judge for themselves”.
Unsatisfied with this reasoning, residents have continued the call, publicly and privately, for the mayor to simply address requests from community members to end the contract with Live PD.
In a response to one constituent who emailed the mayor asking for him to end the Live PD contract, Bynum called the discussion around policing “incredibly divisive”, insinuating that officers are broadly being accused of “terrorism” and seemingly denying the existence of racially biased policing. He went on to confirm again that he will not cancel the Live PD contract.
The constituent, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Black Wall Street Times “it feels like he was completely denying the data in the equality indicators,” calling it “disrespectful to those who worked to create the report and to the Tulsans living the reality the equality indicators represent.”
We do not doubt that the mayor has an immense task before him in working to restore (or in some cases establish) trust between communities and the police department.
However, the weight of this task does not lessen his responsibility to carry it with respect, humility and deference to those he swore an oath to serve.
Both our mayor and our city have nothing to gain and much to lose from continuing to ignore the voices of Tulsans in support of a show that targets Black, brown and poor communities in the name of entertainment.