After Equality Indicators Review, City Council Grappling With Lack of Tulsa Police Diversity

Nov 22, 2019

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

City councilors are setting out to make the Tulsa Police Department more representative of the community.

A series of special meetings on the Equality Indicators report, which measures disparities in the city across a variety of indicators, made it clear to the council not enough women or people of color are Tulsa police officers, though how they’ll make TPD more representative is yet to be determined.

Councilor Lori Decter Wright said recruiting different officers may require a different approach.

"Minorities and women, specifically, need mentorship, they need a seat at the table from the very beginning, just even through the cultivation of, 'Do you want to even consider becoming a recruit?' Right?" Decter Wright said.

One potential bright spot: The latest police academy figures showed nearly 40 percent of cadets were women.

Other ideas included educational partnerships to help potential recruits finish the bachelor's degree required by TPD and better cadet tracking. Councilor Connie Dodson said she's heard some bilingual, Latino cadets were forced out before graduation, and it was unclear why.

Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper said recruiting and education approaches will take time, and she knows faster changes in practice are possible. She pointed out that in the wake of a discrimination lawsuit brought by a black officer in 1994 and resulting court order, promoting and hiring officers of color improved.

"We know that under certain circumstances that the numbers that we’re trying to reach as it relates to diversity can be accomplished. And that was done when there was a consent decree," Hall-Harper said.