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By Demanding a JusTulsa
Today, after a rushed process, Mayor G.T. Bynum selected the city’s first Black police chief, Wendell Franklin. However, instead of celebrating this historic selection, we have many concerns.
In the past few weeks, nearly 400 Tulsans signed public letters asking Mayor Bynum to conduct a national search to find the most qualified candidate for Tulsa. Their calls were not for a symbolic selection, but for substantive reform. They asked for a police chief who was deeply committed to community policing and had a track record for implementing it. They made it abundantly clear that the community would not trust any outcome if the process did not engage the community deeply and intentionally in a public search.
Instead, Mayor Bynum refused and conducted an internal, opaque, non-participatory search that ended in less than three weeks.
During Friday’s community forum, none of the candidates — including Maj. Franklin — acknowledged last summer’s special City Council meetings investigating the racial disparities in policing documented in the Tulsa Equality Indicators report. Similarly, no candidate made any mention of plans to prioritize creating a culture of equity and unbiased policing practices. This should be troubling to every Tulsan, especially given the fact that Mayor Bynum has recently denied that racially-biased policing is taking place in our city.
Maj. Franklin also publicly denied racial discrimination claims by his fellow rank and file members that resulted in the consent decree. He has failed to stand up for the families of use of force victims. As a result, we have little confidence that Franklin will address concerns raised by Black and Brown communities.
We look forward to Maj. Franklin recanting his prior denial of racial discrimination within the department, committing to aggressively root out racial bias in policing practices, and meeting with the very community members fighting for reform whose voices the mayor dismissed during this process.
It is deeply disappointing that Mayor Bynum has forced our community into this position. Time and again we hear calls for the community to come to the table and work with city leaders to drive toward change. Unfortunately, whenever the community seeks to do exactly that, our mayor chooses not to engage.
Nevertheless, as we have in the past, we will continue to advocate for policing reforms that keep all Tulsans safe and try to work with city officials to that end.
Tulsans deserve nothing less than that.
Demanding a JUSTulsa, Terence Crutcher Foundation, North Tulsa Faith Leaders. Senator Kevin Matthews, Representative Regina Goodwin, and Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper
Demanding a JUSTulsa is a campaign working for police accountability in Tulsa, OK. More information is available at www.918wontwait.org and www.facebook.com/918wontwait.