TULSA - Tulsa Police Department officers may have exceeded their authority in forcing some petitioners to leave a public area, and one officer's supervisor is looking into her conduct during the incident, which was caught on video.
TPD got the call about people waving marijuana flags and a table set up with plants on it near the Target in the Tulsa Hills shopping center near W. 71st and U.S. Hwy 75 last Thursday.
Members of a group called Oklahomans for Health were gathering signatures on a petition to put a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana on the November ballot.
Two officers responded to the call, and one of them is heard on the video telling the petitioners that "you can't hold signs up by the road."
KRMG checked with the city and with the Tulsa Police Department; there is no ordinance against handheld signs on public property.
The petitioners are heard on the video noting that they were on a public easement, and not blocking the sidewalk.
The officers then ask the people for ID's, which they receive, and the female officer goes to the patrol unit to check the names.
She returns and asks the man with the camera phone "What have you been in trouble for?"
He tells her that he was arrested once, but it was dismissed.
After he refuses to tell the officers what the arrest was for, the female officer tells the people they have to leave.
"Just so you guys understand, we have no problem with you being here. But since he wants to be an (expletive) and not tell us his past, that's why you guys are leaving."
Officer Leland Ashley with the Tulsa Police Department says that officer's supervisor has been notified of her conduct.
"Her supervisor's been made aware of that comment, so it will be looking in to. Ultimately, in that situation, we as a department don't condone that type of language," he said.
Asked if she was following TPD policies and procedures by forcing the people to leave, he said "as a citizen you have the right to remain, if you're there on that easement, as long as you're not standing on the sidwalk, or blocking traffic, or blocking someone from walking, you have a right to stand there. Whether it's a protest or a petition, I'll tell you right now the police department, we don't have an issue with anyone exercising their First Amendment rights. Let me be real clear with that...that's really where the chief stands, and where the department stands."
He says the department is not making any attempt to shut down the petition drive.
Meanwhile Chip Paul, a member of Oklahomans for Health, says they have contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for help with stopping what he calls police harrassment.
"We have tried to conduct our campaign in the most respectful, law-abiding, professional manner that we can," he told KRMG.
"We need...this activity and behavior (by the Tulsa Police Department) to stop," he added.
They're also looking into possible remedies for the time lost because of police reportedly shutting down mobile petition sites at several other locations last week.
TPD has records of only two calls about the petitioners.
The group has only 90 days to collect more than 155,000 signatures.