Tulsa City Council Indicates It Will Not Delay Mayor's Proposal for Independent Police Oversight

Feb 6, 2019

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Despite police union push back, Tulsa’s city council showed no signs at a Wednesday special meeting it will delay Mayor G.T. Bynum’s proposal for a civilian police oversight board.

The Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police has bristled at the proposed Office of the Independent Monitor, which would review whether police internal investigations followed proper procedures and evaluate community policing initiatives. Several Tulsa police officers attended Wednesday's meeting.

Bynum said there are already civilian oversight boards for city endeavors such as sales tax–funded projects, finances, human resources and animal welfare.

"In every single one of these case, the response from our city employees has not been outrage but has been appreciation for the citizens involved viewing them as being there to help the city deliver better service to our customers," Bynum said.

Modeled after a Denver civilian oversight board of the same name, Tulsa's OIM would issue public reports on its findings both regularly and after use-of-force incidents. Councilor Ben Kimbro said it will be tough to find attorneys who aren’t consistently biased toward or against the police to serve as monitor and deputy monitor.

"This is unicorns being ridden by leprechaun jockeys. I just would insist that we as a city take every opportunity to really identify the right people to fit in this," Kimbro said.

Bynum has called for the OIM to be staffed by former prosecutors, public defenders and judges. He told councilors they will go through the TPD academy curriculum and other training before reviewing internal investigations.

Councilor Kara Joy McKee said the OIM could actually boost police morale by showing Tulsans everything is above board.

"Some of the officers that I spoke to talked about how frustrating it feels that the community assumes they are all biased in one way or another," McKee said.

The council’s next step is approving ordinances to establish the office, its scope, and a citizen board to pick candidates for monitor and deputy monitor. Bynum said those should be effective May 1. He has requested $500,000 for the office and wants it to open July 1.

Bynum called his proposal a starting point for discussion on Wednesday. The police union says it needs to be negotiated with them and they will take action if it is not.