Tulsa’s police union threw its hat into the ring on Monday and officially endorsed Ben Fu in the four-way race for Tulsa County district attorney.
The Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police has been a vocal critic of current Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler since he charged former Tulsa cop Betty Shelby with manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in 2016. FOP Chairman Jerad Lindsey said he realizes the endorsement can be perceived as police having found a friend to occupy the DA's office.
"We absolutely do not expect that kind of relationship. We see the district attorney as being a check and balance," Lindsey said.
Lindsey said the FOP did not endorse a candidate for district attorney four years ago but now feels a change is needed.
Fu said with police striving for improvement by wearing body cameras and going through de-escalation training, prosecutors must support those efforts by receiving use of force training to back up decisions to charge or not to charge officers.
"This is the next part of that arm in law enforcement, for the district attorney’s office to always do better, because we can’t move forward with reducing our incarceration rates, with increasing public safety, until we have a good relationship with the police and they’re confident in our process," Fu said.
Fu said the relationship between police and the DA's office has never been worse.
"As the lead law enforcement officer in the county, the district attorney obviously needs the support of the police and obviously needs to have a good working relationship with them, so this is, to me, a very good sign of the promise of a good relationship in the future," Fu said.
Lindsey said besides hosting a debate last week, the FOP met with all four district attorney candidates individually before endorsing Fu. In addition to Kunzweiler and Fu, Republican Tammy Westcott and Democrat Jenny Proehl-Day are running.