The high-ranking Tulsa police officer who came under international scrutiny last week for his comments that systemic racism in policing "just doesn't exist" and that, based on his reading of research, American law enforcement officers shoot Black Americans "about 24% less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed," appeared on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Friday.
"I could be the most hated police officer in America right now," Tulsa Police Department Maj. Travis Yates told Carlson, "all because I had the audacity to talk about that I did not believe there was systematic racism in policing. I have the data to show it."
Yates spent the majority of the segment discussing an essay he published last week on a law enforcement website in which he said he is encouraging police officers to quit due to the job's current difficulties.
"It’s the only segment left in society where it’s cool to discriminate and judge, just because of the uniform you wear," Yates writes.
Later in the essay, he speaks directly to those "that were silent while the slow turning of the knives in our backs happened by thugs and cowards."
"Your belief in hashtags and memes over the truth has and will create an environment in your community that you will never expect," he writes. "If you think Minneapolis will turn into Mogadishu and that is far from you, it’s coming."
"Who's going to want to become a police officer under these circumstances?" Carlson asked Yates on the Friday segment. "Only the worst people, I'm afraid."
"Yeah, it's really, when you think about it, it's the only profession that it's still kind of cool to discriminate against, it's kind of cool to spit in people's food, it's kind of cool to cuss at," Yates said.
Yates went on to describe what he said was "the risk" that officers face "that the very next day they could literally be destroyed for doing everything right."
"Yeah, people calling you racist for no reason," Carlson said.
Later, Yates came back to that point.
"You mentioned 'racist' earlier, and the bar has been set so low for that, Tucker, and that's really concerning. It's the worst thing you can call a police officer. I've been branded that for years now, and now it's almost at a high pitch," Yates said.
Carlson closed the interview with support for Yates, after Yates said "they twisted what I said and said that I think we should kill more Black people. It's just outrageous. It's absolutely outrageous, and they have, you know, they've destroyed me and my family." (Yates did not specify who he meant by 'they.')
"We're proud to have you on," Carlson said. "I know you've taken a lot of criticism. I think it's unfair. I think it distorts what you said, and we're happy to have you on this show."
Following Yates' comments, made on a podcast with talk radio host Pat Campbell last week, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum released a statement on Wednesday calling the comments "dumb," and that the comments "are under review by the Chief’s Office. And if he didn’t mean to make the statement in the way it has been received, he owes Tulsans a clarification and an apology." (Following Bynum's statement, Yates told KTUL “I’m not going to apologize, because what I said was accurate based on the data.")
TPD also issued a statement saying that "Chief Wendell Franklin and the Tulsa Police Department want to make it very clear we do not endorse, condone or support Yates’ comments made on the show. This matter has been referred to our Internal Affairs Unit."
Neither Bynum nor Franklin have spoken publicly beyond their written statements. State Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa), chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, told KWGS on Friday that Yates should be fired, and that Franklin and Bynum owe Tulsans a press conference on the matter.
TPD Lt. Marcus Harper, head of the Black Officers Coalition, said at a press conference that Yates "said what he said, and he meant what he said. It’s like he’s trying to appease a certain audience, and that audience is the law enforcement community. What’s dangerous is when those inside of the law enforcement community are influenced by what he says."
Yates' comments were part of a string of recent controversies involving TPD. Last weekend, Bynum told CBS News that he believes the 2016 shooting of unarmed Terence Crutcher by white TPD officer Betty Shelby had more to do with drugs than race. (Bynum apologized for those remarks in the same statement about Yates.)
Then, TPD released body camera footage of officers stopping and handcuffing two Black children in north Tulsa on allegations of 'jaywalking' before arresting one of them.(Again, in the same statement, Bynum said "No Tulsa kid should have to fear being tackled and cuffed for walking down the street," and said an investigation is underway.)
TPD has so far not indicated that Yates has been dismissed, suspended, or placed on modified duty.
The TPD controversies come amid global protests and outrage over police violence and racism following the police killing of unarmed George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. Tensions locally were raised higher still by President Donald Trump's announcement last week that he intended to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the effective end of slavery, which some Black leaders called a "slap in the face," and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), one of three Black U.S. Senators, said was a "welcome home party" for white supremacists taking place 99 years to the month after the Tulsa Race Massacre. Trump tweeted this weekend that the date for the rally at the BOK Center has since been changed to Saturday June 20th.