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Mayor Says No Conflict Between City Hall, Police Department Regarding Mask Ordinance Enforcement

Chris Polansky
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum at a press conference at the Tulsa Fire Museum on Friday, July 17th.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Friday said there is no conflict between City Hall and the Tulsa Police Department, following a statement from TPD saying they would be seeking a legal review of the mask mandate ordinance passed by the city council and signed by the mayor.

In a release announcing the ordinance, the City of Tulsa said that "persons refusing to wear a face covering into a Place of Public Accommodation, Educational Institution, or Public Setting shall be subject to prosecution under criminal trespass, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct or similar offenses as circumstances warrant. The ordinance will be enforced by Tulsa Police."

But in a Thursday statement, TPD said they would be "seeking a legal opinion on the nuances" of the ordinance, and, at least momentarily, only be enforcing it if requested by property owners regarding maskless guests deemed to be "trespassing."

"Disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace ordinances are not applicable to a failure to wear a face covering or social distancing issue. Therefore, until a legal opinion is received, officers will not be dispatched to face covering or social distancing issues alone nor to those calls that are not made by a property or business owner," the TPD statement reads.

TPD also said that any complaint of trespassing would require the property owner to sign a citation agreeing to appear before a judge to testify.

Bynum told Public Radio Tulsa on Friday that there is "no conflict," and that TPD is simply reacting to the fact that the council voted on an amended version of Bynum's originally submitted proposal, which the police department had no part in drafting or reviewing. The council based their language on the mask requirement implemented in the Oklahoma city of Stillwater.

"I don't think there's a conflict," Bynum said. "That's a result of TPD's legal advisor being closely involved with the development of the ordinance that I submitted to the council, and then the council largely amended it to replace it with Stillwater's language, and that was language that TPD's legal advisor had not been involved in developing."

"I think they're just wanting to clear up what the expectation of officers in the field should be," Bynum said. "It's really situational, based on the discussions I've had with the leadership in Stillwater, as to what violations they would apply on any given situation."

A TPD spokesperson said they would not be able to comment beyond the statement.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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