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

TULSA — 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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