Ahead Of Rally, TPD Stresses 'Safety' — But Not Masks Or Distancing For Officers

Jun 18, 2020

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Wednesday had choice words for Tulsans who refuse to follow public health guidelines during the current rise in coronavirus infections.

"If Tulsans are not willing to take that kind of responsibility to protect one another, then don't be surprised when you see your numbers increase," he said, after describing how few people he sees wearing masks in the city. "We have a responsibility to protect each other through this, through responsible behavior in our daily lives."

But one group that seems reticent to adopt strict mask wearing and physical distancing policies is Bynum's own police force.

In a tweet posted Wednesday, the Tulsa Police Department shared photos it said was taken that morning of a planning session for this weekend's crowds, which Chief Wendell Franklin predicted could be Tulsa's largest ever.

One photo depicts between 20 and 30 people crowded around tables, with no distancing appearing to be practiced and no masks being visibly worn.

"I would strongly ask you to follow Dr. [Bruce] Dart's advice about wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, washing your hands," Bynum said at the Wednesday press conference, addressing anyone who would be downtown this weekend for either President Trump's large political rally at the BOK Center or its opposing protests. 

Dart, the head of the Tulsa Health Department, has repeatedly recommended that the rally not be held due to surging COVID-19 numbers in Tulsa County, which in recent days has surpassed all other Oklahoma counties in confirmed infections. 

His health department has also strongly endorsed the wearing of face coverings and the maintaining of physical distancing to combat the virus's spread, which are also the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

At recent protests in Tulsa, neither demonstrators nor law enforcement have uniformly complied with public health guidelines regarding face coverings. 

Franklin said many more officers than usual will be working this weekend, and repeatedly stressed "safety" as the department's goal. 

"The eyes of the world are on Tulsa, Oklahoma," Franklin said.

The Tulsa Police Department did not respond to a request for comment regarding whether it would require its officers to follow the guidelines from either the Tulsa Health Department or the CDC.