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NAACP LDF, local leaders demand city address racial bias in policing
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NAACP LDF, local leaders demand city address racial bias in policing

NAACP LDF, local leaders demand city address racial bias in policing
Photo Credit: Russell Mills
Rev. Al Sharpton was among hundreds of protesters to rally in Tulsa after Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by a Tulsa police officer.

NAACP LDF, local leaders demand city address racial bias in policing

Thursday, a letter signed by nearly fifty community leaders and activists in Tulsa was sent to the mayor and city councilors, demanding the city implement changes to police policies and procedures.

The letter cites statistics contained in the Tulsa Equality Indicators Annual Report 2018, which attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons tells KRMG quantifies the level of racial bias still existent in Tulsa.

[You can hear the full interview HERE or use the audio player below]

“Utilizing the City of Tulsa’s own internal records and documents, (the report) highlighted or showed that African-Americans are two times as likely to be arrested than white residents, and as much as five times as likely to be victims of officers’ use of force than all other groups in Tulsa,” Solomon-Simmons said Friday afternoon.

“This was a report that really solidified and backed up what so many people have already known for decades, through litigation, through reports and studies, that these type of inequalities, these type of racial discriminatory policing, exist here in Tulsa,” he added.

The coalition behind the letter, spearheaded by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, includes civil rights attorneys, religious leaders, elected officials, and even a former Chief of the Tulsa Police Department, Drew Diamond.

It demands that the mayor and city council act within 60 days to implement new policies for TPD, and seeks six specific changes (see below) designed to effect change.

“We would like to see action,” Solomon-Simmons told KRMG. “We don’t need any additional speeches or reports. We know the data, we know the statistics, we know discriminatory policing, we know how it negatively impacts individuals and communities, and we want it to stop. And the people who have the power to stop it is Mayor G.T. Bynum and the city council. We’re asking them to act.”

Asked for a response, Mayor Bynum emailed the following statement to KRMG:

“A lot of people I respect signed this letter. I appreciate the thought that went into it, and will give it the consideration it deserves. Unfortunately, based on legal guidance provided, I can not respond at this time due to the connection between so many of the signatories on the letter and litigation pending against the City of Tulsa.”

 


TEXT OF THE LETTER:

Dear Mayor Bynum and Councilor Chairman Patrick:

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and the undersigned Tulsa civil right attorneys, religious leaders, elected officials, law enforcement officials, and community activists write in response to the recently released Tulsa Equality Indicators Annual Report 2018, which found that in the City of Tulsa’s (City) justice system, Black residents are arrested over twice as often as White residents, and Blacks are five times as likely to be victims of officer use of force than all other racial and ethnic groups.1 These disturbing findings are well-known to residents and City officials, as previous research, litigation, and news reports have documented racial disparities in the practices of the Tulsa Police Department (TPD) for decades.2 Indeed, in the aftermath of the police-involved shooting death of Terence Crutcher, last year, City officials formed and served as members of the Tulsa Commission on Community Policing (the Commission), which released seventy-seven (77) recommendations for improving policing practices in Tulsa.

We are dismayed, however, that there are very few recommendations that will address the City’s well-documented and long history of racially-biased policing, and none that will hold TPD officers accountable if they fail to comply with the proposed policies, trainings and data collection outlined in the Findings and Recommendations of the Tulsa Commission on Community Policing report.3 Therefore, we request that you: 1) immediately adopt the policy recommendations outlined below; and 2) within the next sixty (60) days, hold public hearings to investigate the recent findings in the Tulsa Equality Indicators report and solicit more information and recommendations from the public about TPD’s use-of-force and arrest practices.

The Tulsa Commission wisely considered recommendations from the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Members of former President Obama’s Task Force held listening sessions in cities across the country to collect information from police executives, civil rights advocates, activists and researchers about promising practices for building trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.4 The Task Force noted that in 2015, the public’s confidence in law enforcement was declining in communities of color.5 This lack of trust was due in part to highly-publicized police killings of unarmed men, women and children of color and the lack of accountability for these killings both criminally and administratively.6 The Task Force’s recommendations and action items provide a road map of steps that law enforcement agencies should take to fulfill the six pillars detailed in the report: building trust and legitimacy; policy and oversight; technology and social media; community policing and crime reduction; training and education; and officer wellness and safety.

Recognizing that for valid reasons, Black residents of the City also lack confidence in law enforcement, Tulsa Commission members appropriately adopted the pillars and several recommendations from the Task Force report. However, according to the Tulsa Commission report’s appendix,7 commissioners considered but did not approve any of the measurable actions steps that could result in greater police accountability, including in the areas of use of force and arrests. So, following the instruction of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass who stated “[p]ower concedes nothing without a demand…[i]t never did, and it never will,”8 we demand City officials immediately adopt and carry out promptly the following policies and action items:

1. Revise TPD policies and training to emphasize de-escalation and alternatives to arrests in TPD’s policies and training where appropriate.9 TPD’s use-of-force policy does not require officers to use de-escalation tactics to avoid the use of force. The Tulsa Commission report states that the TPD should continue scenario-based training, including instruction on de-escalation, but the department does not appear to have a de-escalation policy. Additionally, while the Tulsa Commission report recommends implementing “least harm” resolutions, such as warnings and citations, in lieu of arrest for minor infractions, Commissioners did not specify what type of minor infractions are eligible for these resolutions. This information should be captured in a departmental policy.

2. Require external and independent investigations of police use-of-force incidents resulting in death or injury and in-custody deaths.10 On May 2, 2018, the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police hosted a Tulsa District Attorney debate that featured all four of the major district attorney candidates. One of the questions posed to all of the candidates was whether they believe TPD should investigate their own alleged misconduct.11 Regardless of what the eventual new district attorney decides, if the City truly values improving community trust and faith in TPD, then the City should follow the lead of the Sand Springs, Oklahoma Police Department by adopting a policy and practice of routinely referring certain incidents, such as the shooting or attempted shooting of a person by a law enforcement officer, to an independent agency for investigation. Sand Springs has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to conduct investigations of certain incidents.12

3. Create use-of-force policies that state clearly what information will be released relating to incidents.13

4. Establish a Serious Incident Review Board comprising of sworn staff and community members who will review cases involving officer-involved shootings and other serious incidents that have the potential to damage community trust or confidence in the agency.14 The Board should identify and recommend any administra-tive, supervisory, training, tactical, or policy issues that need to be addressed. According to the TPD’s use-of-force policy, a Deadly Force Review Board, comprising only TPD officers, reviews deadly force incidents referred to it by the police chief.15 TPD should diversify the composition of the Board and require it to review all serious incidents.

5. Partner with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training to contribute to its National Decertification Index that collects information about officers who have had their licenses or certifications revoked.16 This will allow law enforcement agencies to identify problem officers before they are hired. It appears that the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training has submitted the names of decertified officers to the National Decertification Index in the past.17 But, it is unclear whether TPD notifies this agency of its decertified officers. We urge TPD to do so.

6. Retain a nationally recognized police department implicit bias trainer with community input. While pleased that the City finally decided to incorporate mandatory implicit bias training for TPD officers and City executives, we were disappointed to learn that the City did not hire a national expert with a proven track record of successfully training police departments regarding implicit bias. This act has actually created more distrust because it appears the City is just engaging in a “check the box” activity, and not seriously attempting to change the racially discriminatory practices and culture of TPD. We have relationships with national experts, including researchers, who have worked with law enforcement agencies and could partner with the city’s current consultant. We are more than willing to share those names with City officials.

Finally, we demand the City Council to hold public hearings to investigate the Tulsa Equality Indicators report findings of racial disparities in TPD’s arrest and use-of-force practices within the next sixty (60) days. It is simply unacceptable to acknowledge racial inequities in City reports and do little to nothing to address them. A hearing will allow members of the public to share their views about these findings and offer recommendations for change.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss further the above policy reform recommendations in a meeting. Please feel free to contact Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons at 918-587-3161, or Monique Dixon, Deputy Director of Policy and Senior Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, at 202-682-1300 to schedule a mutually convenient time to meet.

Sincerely yours,

Sherrilyn A. Ifill* 

NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.

*Admitted to the Bars of New York and Maryland

Damario Solomon-Simmons, Attorney, Of Counsel

President & Director Counsel Riggs, Abney, Neal, Orbinson, Turpen, & Lewis

Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, President Drew Diamond, Former Chief of Police

Terence Crutcher Foundation Tulsa Police Department

Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper Rep. Regina Goodwin

City of Tulsa, District One Oklahoma State Representative

Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director David Blatt, Ph.D., Executive Director

Oklahoma ACUL Oklahoma Policy Institute

Sen. Kevin Matthews Rep. Monroe Nichols

Oklahoma State Senate Oklahoma State Representative

Dr. Ray Owens, Senior Pastor Rev. M.C. Potter, Senior Pastor

Metropolitan Baptist Church Antioch Baptist Church

Danny Williams, Former US Attorney Chief Egunwale Amusan

U.S. District Court, Northern District African Ancestral Society

of Oklahoma

Richard Baxter, President Monya Brown

Racism Stinks Community Activist

Thomas Boxley, Executive Director Darryl Bright, President

The Institute for Developing C.U.B.E.S., Inc.

Communities

Layla Caldwell, Pastor Mrs. Leanna Crutcher

United Coalition of Ministers Mother of Terence Crutcher

Rev. Joey Crutcher, Sr., Anthony Douglas, State President

Father of Terence Crutcher Oklahoma State NAACP

Rev. Jamaal Dyer Hailey Ferguson

Community Activist Community Activist

Nehemiah Frank Caleb Gayle

Editor-In-Chief, Black Wall Street Times Community Activist

James (Jim) Goodwin Pastor Scott Gordon

Oklahoma Eagle Newspaper Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

Dr. Rodney Goss, Senior Pastor Angela Graham, Candidate

Morning Star Baptist Church Oklahoma House District 66

Tracy Love, President Nate Morris

Love & Associates Greater Tulsa Alumnus, Teach of America

David Riggs, Senior Partner Greg Robinson

Riggs, Abney, Neal, Orbinson, Turpen, Community Activist

& Lewis

Shea Seals Pastors Terry & Barbara Shannon

Tulsa Basketball Legend New Heights Christian Center

Sarah Smith-Moore Robin Steinberg, Executive Director

Aware Tulsa Still She Rises, LLC

Bruce Suttle Robin Taylor

Community Activist Community Activist

Etan Thomas, NBA Star Dr. Robert Turner, Senior Pastor

Author and Native Tulsan Vernon AME Church

Rhea Vaugh-Dobbin Pastor Weldon Tisdale, Senior Pastor

Community Activist Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

Charles Wilkes, Candidate Bill White

Tulsa City Council District 3 Community Activist

Kandy White Kristi Williams

Community Activist Community Activist

Bobby Woodard, Pharm. D Dr. Runako Whittaker

Westview Medical Clinic Westview Pediatric Care

Rev. Gerald Davis

The United League of Social Justice-Tulsa

cc: Tulsa City Councilors

  

NOTES:

1 City of Tulsa, et al, Tulsa Equality Indicators, Annual Report 2018, 24-26 (Apr. 4, 2018), https://www.tulsaei.org/blog/2018/04/tulsa-releases-first-annual-equality-indicators-report/.

2 See, Ziva Branstetter, Groups renew request for city probe of police, Tulsa World, May 5, 2001 (describing a photo two white Tulsa police officers holding a handcuffed arrestee around the neck with the words “say cheese” under the photo), http://www.tulsaworld.com/archives/groups-renew-request-for-city-probe-of-police/article_10cac80e-7a06-5506-bd7b-00c825bd7e90.html; See also, Ian Ayres, Supplemental Report on Racial Disparities of the Tulsa Police Dep’t, Tr. Doc. 318, Johnson v. City of Tulsa, Civil No. 94-CV-00039-TCK-FHM (N.D. OK July 2, 2001) (finding racial disparities in arrests and use-of-force by Tulsa police officers).

3 City of Tulsa, Findings and Recommendations of the Tulsa Commission on Community Policing, Executive Summary, Mar. 10, 2017, https://www.cityoftulsa.org/media/3298/community-policing-commission-executive-summary.pdf.

4 President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, U.S. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, May 2015, https://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-p311-pub.pdf. (Hereinafter President’s Task Force Report).

5 Id. at 9.

6Jeffrey Jones, In U.S., Confidence in Police Lowest in 22 Years, GALLUP, June 19, 2015, http://news.gallup.com/poll/183704/confidence-police-lowest-years.aspx.

7 See, Tulsa Commission on Community Policing, Appendix, https://www.cityoftulsa.org/media/3299/community-policing-commission-appendix.pdf.

8 On August 3, 1857, Frederick Douglass delivered a “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York, on the twenty-third anniversary of the event. Most of the address was a history of British efforts toward emancipation, as well as a reminder of the crucial role of the West Indian slaves in that own freedom struggle. See, http://www.blackpast.org/1857-frederick-douglass-if-there-no-struggle-there-no-progress

9 President’s Task Force Report, supra note 4, at 20.

10 Id. at 21.

11 See, Dylan Goforth, Tulsa County DA debate turns to questions over last summer’s Betty Shelby trial, The Frontier, May 2, 2018, https://www.readfrontier.org/stories/tulsa-county-da-debate-turns-to-questions-over-last-summers-betty-shelby-trial/.

12 Sand Springs Police Department, Memorandum of Understanding between Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Sand Springs Police Department, Oct. 10, 2016.

13 President’s Task Force Report, supra note 4, at 22.

14 Id.

15Tulsa Police Department, Use of Force Procedure 31-101A, Aug. 28, 2014, https://www.tulsapolice.org/media/161292/public_policy_manual121217.pdf.

16 President’s Task Force Report, supra note 4, at 29.

17 Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, Meeting Agenda, 3, Jan. 29, 2014 (stating “names of individuals whose certification has been suspended or voluntarily surrendered since the last meeting…will be entered into the National Decertification Database), https://www.ok.gov/cleet/documents/CouncilAgenda_29Jan2014.pdf.

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  • The feud between Twitter and President Donald Trump escalated on Friday after the President used the social media platform to threaten the use of force against rioters in Minneapolis, as Twitter slapped a warning label on the President's tweet, saying Mr. Trump had violated rules on 'glorifying violence.' 'These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd,' the President wrote, referring to the black man who was suffocated to death when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his head and neck for an extended period of time earlier this week. The President then spoke of sending in National Guard troops to restore order, warning that 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts.' That was evidently too much for Twitter, which placed a warning on the President's tweet. In the President's mind, the warning label from Twitter was the latest indignity against him by the social media giant, as Mr. Trump tore into Twitter early on Friday morning. 'Twitter is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party,' the President tweeted soon after 7 am. 'They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States.' Earlier this week, Twitter added a link to a couple of the President's tweets about mail-in voting, giving a link for more information about the issue. The President was incensed, leading to his executive order on Thursday, and a direct threat to close down the company, which experts said he had no power to do. On Capitol Hill, the two parties saw the developing events on Twitter much differently. 'Twitter is censoring the President of the United States,' said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). Democrats in Congress said the President was overreacting, and acting like an authoritarian. “Trump’s behavior is growing increasingly unhinged, authoritarian, and outright violent and is designed to inflame and divide America further,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). “This is vile behavior,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).  “The President should not be encouraging violence.” “(T)he President’s executive order is a shameless attempt to use the power of his office to silence his critics and intimidate his perceived enemies,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).
  • With a series of studies raising questions about the side effects and the efficacy of a drug pushed by President Donald Trump for use against the Coronavirus, the VA has curtailed its use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroqine in Veterans Affairs medical facilities. 'Last week, we only used it three times,' VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told a House Appropriations Committee hearing, a very small number compared to the over 1,300 vets who have received the drug for Coronavirus treatment. 'We started ratcheting it down as we went more to remdesivir and we went more to the convalescent plasma,' Wilkie said, as he took fire from Democrats over using the drug in the first place. 'It's very disappointing to me that the VA was using that drug,' said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the panel, as she slammed the President's embrace of hydroxychloroquine as 'wishful thinking' by someone who is not a medical expert. 'What is astounding to me is the VA is still insisting on providing this drug to veterans,' said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “We have ratcheted down as we've brought more treatments online,” Wilkie said at another point.  “And I expect that to continue.” Wilkie said he spoken this week with the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told reporters in recent days that hydroxychloroquine should no longer be used by doctors. The VA chief though couched Fauci's advice as one which would leave the door open to possible use of the malaria drug as more evidence comes in. 'The rest of the world is all over the map,' Wilkie said of the use of hydroxychloroquine against the Coronavirus. 'France banned it, and then the government of India said it absolutely essential for them.' The message from the White House continued to be much more upbeat than Dr. Fauci. “It's important to note that this drug has been safely used by millions of people for a long time,” said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday.
  • A day after the United States topped 100,000 deaths from the Coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump joined the expression of grief for the families of those who have died in the pandemic which has swept around the globe. 'We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100,000,' the President wrote on Twitter, as he expressed his 'heartfelt sympathy' to family and friends of the dead.  As the numbers hit 100,000 on Wednesday, the President made no statement about death toll, as leading Democrats took on that role instead. 'God Bless each and every one of you and the blessed memory of the one you lost,' former Vice President Biden said in a video message from his home in Delaware. 'One hundred thousand,' said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). Those we have lost can’t just be a number. A statistic. A line in a history book. They were our friends, our loved ones, our children and grandparents.' While calling the 100,000 deaths 'tragic,' Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said all sides need to be paying more attention to the large number of deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the nation. 'Seniors in these settings should be a top focus of our prevention efforts,' Rubio said on Thursday. In some states, the nursing home deaths represent an overwhelming share of Coronavirus losses, over 80 percent in Minnesota, 70 percent in Ohio, and near 50 percent in Florida and Georgia. Democrats continued to blame the President and his administration for not being better prepared, as an old tweet from October 2019 by Joe Biden became a focal point on Twitter. 'We are not prepared for a pandemic,' Biden said that day. 'Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.
  • As the nation marked the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from the Coronavirus in just over three months, President Donald Trump spent Wednesday talking about almost any other subject, attacking Twitter, jabbing at the news media, questioning the Russia investigation, denouncing expanded mail-in voting, and again pressing a conspiracy theory that an ex-GOP Congressman was involved in the death of a female aide almost 19 years ago. 'He is arguably the greatest president in our history,' the President quoted Fox Business host Lou Dobbs saying about him. President Trump's only official comment related to the virus outbreak came in a single tweet early on Wednesday morning, in which he highlighted the growing number of virus tests nationwide. 'We pass 15,000,000 Tests Today, by far the most in the World,' Mr. Trump tweeted, adding, 'Open Safely!'  But there was no mention by the President, no tweet, no written statement in his name honoring those who have died, or who remain hospitalized by the Coronavirus. Democrats moved to fill the void. 'Would you have ever thought that we would be observing 100,000 people?' asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a Capitol Hill news conference. From his home in Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden took aim at the President as well. 'I'm so sorry for your loss,' Biden said, marking the 100,000 death toll. 'They were not numbers. They were our neighbors. Our friends. Our family,' said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). The President met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Oval Office on Wednesday morning, and then flew to Florida, only to have the launch of a SpaceX crew vehicle scrubbed by bad weather. Over 1,400 deaths were reported in the U.S. on Wednesday, with over 300 combined from Illinois and New Jersey, two states which continue to struggle with virus cases. 'This is a tragic day. My heart aches for those we have lost,' said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA). 'The day the United States hit 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic Trump shares a messages calling himself “the greatest President in our history,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'His vanity is nauseating.' On Capitol Hill, Democrats pressed for more money to conduct virus testing and tracing, but Senate Republicans have refused to bring up a House-passed bill with $75 billion more in funding. 'Are we going to do what we need to do to prevent the next 100,000 deaths?' asked former CDC Chief Dr. Tom Frieden.