Chris Polansky

News Anchor & Reporter

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.

 

His most recent stint at an NPR member station was as a general assignment reporter at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, in 2019. His stories have also appeared in/on Gothamist / WNYC, the NPR national newscast, and the Brooklyn Eagle.

 

Chris is a New Jersey native and perpetually disappointed Mets fan who spent just about ten years in New York City before coming to Tulsa. He likes hiking and camping with his dog, Trout Fishing in America. He’s also a proud alumnus of Bike & Build, an affordable housing nonprofit with which he’s bicycled coast-to-coast twice: from Portland, Maine, to Santa Barbara (2014), and from Nags Head, North Carolina, to San Diego (2016). Both trips crossed Oklahoma. 

Ways to Connect

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Speaking just minutes after the director of the Tulsa Health Department reiterated his belief that the president's reelection rally this week should be postponed due to surging coronavirus numbers in Oklahoma and Tulsa County, Mayor G.T. Bynum said at a press conference Wednesday that while he can't guarantee anyone's safety, he will not act to prevent the rally from taking place.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • Despite warnings from hundreds of health care providers and his own health department director, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum says he will take no action to attempt to prevent or postpone President Trump's reelection campaign rally at the BOK Center this weekend.
  • Oklahoma continues to break records for increases in COVID-19 cases, and Tulsa County is pulling away as the county with the state's most cases.

Dr. Jabraan Pasha, University of Oklahoma Medical Center

Calling it a matter of public health, not politics, hundreds of health care providers have signed their names on a letter to Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, calling on him to prevent President Trump's campaign rally planned for the BOK Center on Saturday.

Tuesday's top stories:

Tulsa Police Department

Following another public relations black eye, as footage of an incident in which Tulsa police officers handcuffed two Black children in north Tulsa for allegedly jaywalking aired on national news networks, the Tulsa Police Department has issued a new statement on the incident.

Sen. James Lankford

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) spoke with KWGS News' Chris Polansky on Monday, June 15th, about police reform following last month's killing of George Floyd, Black Tulsans' outrage over President Trump's initial Juneteenth date for a Tulsa rally (and his role in getting it changed), whether he thinks the rally should continue despite warnings from local and federal public health experts, and whether he intends to wear a mask to the rally.

Full transcript:

Monday's top stories:

  • With a new surge in COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County and Oklahoma, the Tulsa Health Department is expressing concern over President Trump's scheduled rally at the BOK Center.
  • Maj. Travis Yates of the Tulsa Police Department, who drew international attention last week for comments that, according to his reading of research, police shoot Black Americans "less than we probably ought to based on the crimes being committed," appeared on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight."

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Sunday that 158 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 bring the state's total number of confirmed infections to 8,231. No new deaths were reported; 359 Oklahomans are confirmed to have died from complications caused by the novel coronavirus.

Tulsa County had 39 of the new reported cases, bringing the county total to 1,564 confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic. 62 Tulsa County residents are known to have died.

6,578 Oklahomans are reported to have recovered. 

Fox News Channel

The high-ranking Tulsa police officer who came under international scrutiny last week for his comments that systemic racism in policing "just doesn't exist" and that, based on his reading of research, American law enforcement officers shoot Black Americans "about 24% less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed," appeared on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Friday.

Tulsa Health Department

One week before President Donald Trump is scheduled to host a campaign rally at Tulsa's BOK Center, local and national health experts are warning that large indoor gatherings have the potential to further worsen the still-growing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cherokee Nation

Tahlequah, Okla., the capital of Cherokee Nation, is the latest American city to remove statues honoring the Confederacy amid a widespread national clamoring for an end to systemic racism.

“A lot is going on in this country in terms of racial strife and the Cherokee Nation plays a role in healing, and this is one of the ways we can do that,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

Friday's top stories:

  • President Donald Trump's announcement that his first in-person campaign rally since March would take place at Tulsa's BOK Center on Juneteenth has drawn outrage across the country.
  • The majority of public comments at a public hearing on the City of Tulsa's proposed budget called for defunding the Tulsa Police Department.
  • Tulsa County's three largest single-day increases in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic were recorded this week.

Sen. James Lankford

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said Thursday that while he doesn't agree with those who say American policing is systemically racist, nor does he support an end to qualified immunity, he does believe in making some significant reform to the criminal justice system.

Thursday's top stories:

Brian Nutt / City of Tulsa

This article was updated at 10:52 a.m., June 10th, to include a response from the Mayor's Office.

With police brutality and institutional racism in the national spotlight following last month's killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum issued a statement Wednesday morning addressing growing controversies involving his administration and the Tulsa Police Department.

Tulsa Police Department

The Tulsa Police Department released body-camera footage from an encounter between officers and two Black teens in north Tulsa who they say were stopped for jaywalking. 

In a statement, TPD Capt. Richard Meulenberg said the video was posted "in the continued effort to be transparent with our community."

TPD says the incident occurred on Thursday, June 4th, on the 1300 block of North Osage Drive. Video appears to show an officer running after the two teenagers. When he reaches them, he grabs one from behind.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • Tulsa County reported its largest ever day-over-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 infections. Four- and seven-day averages of new cases are the highest ever, and the 14-day average of new deaths is rising.
  • Tulsa Police Maj. Travis Yates is coming under fire for comments he made saying that systemic racism in policing "doesn't exist" and suggesting that American law enforcement officers possibly shoot Black Americans less than they should. 

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) said this week that she took two major exceptions with Gov. Kevin Stitt's Sunday roundtable discussion on race, put together in the wake of nationwide protests over police killings of Black Americans following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.

Facebook / Broken Arrow Police Department

Please see this editor's note about a photo change on the story.

Updated June 10, 7 p.m. to clarify a quote and link to a study cited.

Discussing nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, a white Tulsa Police Department major said Monday systemic racism in policing "just doesn't exist."

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Clergy of various faiths led a march on City Hall to demand and pray for an end to police violence.
  • The Greater Tulsa Area Hispanic Affairs Commission lent its support to Black Tulsans.
  • Tulsa County's cases of COVID-19 are trending upwards, with the highest seven-day average of new cases since the beginning of April.

KWGS News

A former sergeant at the Tulsa County Jail has been arrested on charges of first-degree manslaughter.

A Tulsa Police Department spokesperson said Christopher Straight, 53, of Sapulpa, was working as a security guard at the Knight's Inn at S. Garnett and Route 66 when he instigated an altercation with Carlos Carson, 36, on June 6th. Straight allegedly pepper sprayed Carson before shooting him to death. Straight is white; Carson was Black.

Chris Polansky / KWGS

An assemblage of faith communities met at the Greenwood Cultural Center on Monday morning for a rally and march to Tulsa City Hall to demand an end to police violence, the latest such event following the brutal, caught-on-camera killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

A crowd of an estimated 200 people carried signs in support of Black Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement, and were joined and led in prayer and song by leaders of Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, AME, and other Christian denominations. 

Monday's top stories:

  • Amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum told a national news magazine program that the 2016 police killing of Terence Crutcher, also an unarmed Black man, by Tulsa police was not race-related.
  • Hundreds took to the streets in Broken Arrow to support the Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrate against police brutality and racism.
  • Oklahoma has increased to 7,150 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 348 known deaths.

With near-daily protests against police brutality and racism continuing across the country, the state, and the Tulsa area, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum made clear to a national news outlet that he does not believe the 2016 killing of Terence Crutcher by the Tulsa Police Department was related to Crutcher being Black.

"A lot of people saw what happened to Terence Crutcher, and they said, 'This wouldn't have happened if he was a white man,'" reporter Kelefa Sanneh said to Bynum on a CBS Sunday Morning segment. "Do you think that's true?"

"No, I don't," Bynum responded. 

Courtesy Keystone Lake Jellystone Park.

With many Oklahoma families feeling cooped up after months of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, some local campgrounds are popular destinations for Memorial Day weekend.

Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts' two locations in Oklahoma, in Mannford and Eufaula, say they're ready to safely welcome a sold-out crowd this weekend.

"We have about 85 campsites rented for the weekend," said Beth Ryan, owner and operator of the Mannford site, on Keystone Lake. Ryan said the park is going to great lengths to keep people safe.

Facebook / Catoosa Public Schools

When Catoosa High School announced it would be one of the few Tulsa-area high schools to hold a traditional, in-person graduation ceremony for its seniors, it said it would reference Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and remove anyone not following a list of restrictions meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday morning his pick for a new interim director of the State Department of Health.

Col. Lance Frye, a Tulsa resident, is currently serving as the State Air Surgeon of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, a role he said he will continue in during his time as health commissioner. Frye is also an OB/GYN and professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

"Col. Frye is the right leader at the right time," Stitt said in his announcement from the Capitol on Friday.

Friday's top stories:

  • Tulsa County reported a spike in COVID-19 cases Thursday, attributed to a long-term care facility.
  • The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has taken custody of at least 140 inmates from the Comanche County Jail due to a major COVID-19 outbreak there.
  • The Oklahoma Legislature will reconvene today, possibly to override Gov. Kevin Stitt's vetoes of their approved bills.

Facebook / Cowboy Gatherin' Church

A pastor in Inola has been arrested following allegations of sexual assault by three children.

Roy Shoop, 55, pastor of the Cowboy Gatherin' Church, was taken into custody by Rogers County Sheriff's deputies Wednesday. 

Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said his investigation began with an allegation sent to his office by the Mayes County Sheriff's Office, and eventually uncovered three children claiming that Shoop molested or raped them in his home. 

Facebook / Catoosa Public Schools

Catoosa High School seniors will be some of the first Tulsa-area students to be graduating via a traditional, in-person commencement ceremony since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the school community sent on Wednesday, Catoosa High Principal Josh Brown confirmed that the ceremony would take place at the school's football stadium on Thursday evening (or this weekend, if weather forces a postponement). 

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