People of color are underrepresented within the Tulsa Police Department, but a new program could help change that.
Currently dubbed the Oklahoma Guardian Development Project, it would seek to start reaching Tulsa Public Schools students in high school, putting them in touch with mentors and guiding them into classes at Tulsa Community College and then OSU-Tulsa before the police academy.
TPD officers must hold a bachelor’s degree, a requirement that limits the department’s recruiting from underrepresented communities. TPD recruiter Ofc. Jesse Guardiola described the Guardian Project as a "magnificent workforce development project."
"Because we’re taking kids who may be marginalized because of their situations socioeconomically all the way over to being middle class, and then the great benefit is the City of Tulsa gets public servants out of it on the back side," Guardiola told city councilors during a presentation last week.
OU student researchers recently helped come up with a basic outline for the project. Sri Srinavasan said they expect participating students to end up making $18,000 a year more than they would without the Guardian Project.
"And based on studies of diversity in police forces, such as the Chicago police force, we can expect up to a 30% decrease in race-based patrolling and 40% decrease in violent encounters just with this initiative alone. We’re very excited about the precedent this program will set in policing reform and education not only in Tulsa, but nationwide," Srinavasan said.
The OU students believe TPD could pay for the program through grants and streamlining existing programs, and they project around two dozen Tulsa Public Schools students might be interested if it comes to fruition. There are several steps remaining, however, before the Guardian Project gets off the ground.