Council Approves Public Hearings on Tulsa Equality Indicators

Mar 13, 2019

Credit Community Service Council

After months of discussion, city councilors voted Wednesday evening to proceed with public hearings on Tulsa’s Equality Indicators, a report measuring racial disparities in the city.

Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper has pushed for hearings focused on racial disparities in arrests and police use of force the report identifies.

The council will hold one hearing on each of four topics: adult arrests, youth arrests, use of force and police department employees. The hearings will be in the form of a special meeting immediately following one regular council meeting a month.

"Allowing for all of the councilors to be present, allowing to schedule those panelists at a time when they might have the freedom in their schedule to participate. That would give us the opportunity to meet all those needs on a regular day that we’re here anyway and that the public can attend in the evening," said Councilor Connie Dodson.

Hall-Harper said she wanted enough time to allow adequate public input.

"I still want whatever subject we’re talking about — adults, youth, law enforcement, whatever the case may be — to make sure that week prior … we’re not going to be cutting people off or saying, you know, 'You can’t vote,' or 'There’s 30 of you. You each have one minute,'" Hall-Harper said.

The regular council meeting the week before a special meeting on Equality Indicators will include up to 60 minutes of public comment on the next week's indicator. Council rules typically allow 30 minutes.

The city council will also add a unanimously agreed to community member to each special meeting's panel. Panels typically include a representative from the Community Service Council, which developed the Equality Indicators, and representatives of the Tulsa Police Department, Tulsa County District Attorney's Office, City of Tulsa Office of Resiliency, and Tulsa County Public Defender's Office.

Councilor Phil Lakin had been wary of the potential for public comments to be directed at experts the council will ask to come.

"The voters elected us to do our job, to change the outcomes that we’re now aware of, to prioritize how we spend our money and what we direct our attention to," Lakin said.

Plans call for less formal hearings than originally proposed. The hearing proposal recommends the council also explore safety and violence and city services indicators in other proceedings.