State and local officials sent a letter this week calling on Mayor G.T. Bynum to include the community in his search for Tulsa’s next chief of police.
Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, state Senator Kevin Matthews, and state Reps. Monroe Nichols and Regina Goodwin signed the letter.
"There should be citizen input as it relates to the police chief, specifically black citizen input, being that we are among those most impacted when it comes to use of force and when it comes to arrests," said Goodwin, who represents a large swath of north Tulsa and downtown.
According to Tulsa’s Equality Indicators, black Tulsans are five times more likely than whites to experience police use of force and three times more likely to be arrested. The letter says communities most affected by systemic racism should be allowed to participate in the selection process.
"It’s just good practice for a city like Tulsa. We have racial issues here and we have some police issues here, and with the new chief coming in, we need to hopefully address them head on in the most beneficial way," Goodwin said.
The letter also points to the city’s own survey to show why Bynum should look for community input. Just 18% of black respondents said they have a high level of trust in the police, and 60% said they don’t trust city leaders.
Goodwin said community involvement could take many forms.
"Is that a panel? Is that some kind of committee? Is it some kind of roundtable discussion that meets with the mayor? Is it community folks having their own meetings and bringing forth suggestions?" Goodwin said.
Bynum has said he wants the "best person in the country" to be Tulsa's next chief of police and he won't rush the selection process.
The full letter reads as follows:
Dear Mayor Bynum,
When you announced your Resilient Tulsa strategy in 2018, you rightly stated that “the great moral issue we (Tulsans) face is in resolving the racial disparities that have been allowed to persist in our city for far too long.”
Today, as our city continues the solemn process of pursuing justice for the victims and survivors of the 1921 Massacre, the parallels of our history and our present are not lost on the citizens we serve. Tulsa’s disparate policing practices exacerbated and prolonged the Massacre and continue to be among the most oppressive issues Black Tulsans confront today. According to the Equality Indicator Report released by the City of Tulsa, Black Tulsans are five times more likely to be victims of police use of force and three times more likely to be arrested than white Tulsans. As the city enters into a search for a new police chief, that pursuit of justice demands that communities most disparately affected by systemic racism be permitted to take part in the selection process.
The City’s own data demonstrates most Black Tulsans still hold a deep distrust for their police department and their city government: the CityVoice Index indicates only 18% of our Black citizens place high levels of trust in our police force, while nearly 60% say they do not trust our city’s leaders. Mr. Mayor, you have declared that restoring trust to communities of color is a top priority for your administration. On behalf of our constituents, we are calling on you to make good on that promise by committing to intentionally engage community stakeholders in a transparent, time-bound and participatory selection process for a new police chief. This plan to engage the public should be announced before the hiring process progresses any further. It will be difficult to trust the outcome of any search if the community is unable to engage in this process.
We share your commitment to making Tulsa a world-class city because the power and humanity of our constituents — and their ancestors who built and rebuilt the thriving Greenwood and Black Wall Street community— deserve nothing less. We look forward to the enactment of this critical step of building trust through this process and hope the lessons from our city’s dark past will guide us all in the fight for a brighter future.
Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper on behalf of the constituents of City Council District One Representative Regina T. Goodwin on behalf of the constituents of Oklahoma House District 73 Senator Kevin Matthews on behalf of the constituents of Oklahoma State Senate District 11