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By Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, community activist and founder of the Terence Crutcher Foundation and Co-Founder of JUSTulsa
For years Tulsans, most affected by issues of racial bias in policing, have been doing the difficult work of asking for a seat at the decision-making table; and they have been denied. They have come to City Hall; they have gone to town hall meetings; they have gone to TPD and have called for justice in the streets.
Now, once again, Mayor Bynum — who denies racial bias exists within the Tulsa Police Department — is spending taxpayer dollars on hiring outside consultants who likely have never experienced racial bias in policing, while failing to reach out to anyone who has been on the ground fighting for change since long before he chose to seek elected office.
Last year, Tulsans asked for a seat at the table in our next police chief selection process — a position Mayor Bynum labeled as one of the most important in the city. He refused.
Tulsans asked for the Mayor to conduct a national search for a new chief. He refused.
Now, our chief of police has stated he will not allow community input in developing the new use of force policies for TPD.
This decision is not only in direct contrast to the hard work that the City Council and committed community members have been engaged in nonstop for over two years; Chief Wendell Franklin’s decision is rife with hypocrisy.
Our chief and our Mayor cannot say they believe in community policing while simultaneously slamming the door in the community’s face when it comes time to actual decision making.
They cannot claim they trust the community they serve, and then continue to spend thousands upon thousands on outside firms to supplant community voice.
They cannot claim to “need the community’s help” from a public stage and then assert that meeting the needs of their constituents of color is “like feeding a beast” on a talk radio show like Mayor Bynum did on June 1st.
If Mayor Bynum and Chief Franklin truly wish to make a lasting change, they would be wise to ensure the folks they bring to the table are the ones with the deep, institutional knowledge and the drive to work collaboratively for lasting change. Otherwise, this is just another exercise in politics as usual: big talk and empty promises.
Unfortunately, this is what we have come to expect with our current city leaders.
Tulsans deserve more. We are and always have been willing to work tirelessly alongside our elected officials to create change.
It shouldn’t take massive protests for community members to earn a seat at the table, that seat should be reserved from the start.
City Hall is the people’s hall. Our elected and appointed officials take an oath to serve us. That’s their job. And to minimize the knowledge and power of the people is to fail to serve them effectively.
Sir Robert Peel, the father of Law Enforcement, stated: “the police are the public and the public are the police”. There is no effective policing absent community involvement. Any efforts to diminish this sacred principle further erodes the trust and legitimacy that so many have worked and sacrificed to build.