At a virtual press briefing following his presentation of a proposed fiscal year 2022 budget to the Tulsa City Council, Mayor G.T. Bynum said Wednesday that while Tulsa Police Department staffing is not being targeted for an increase this year, he plans to pursue adding more than 100 patrol officers as part of next year's budget proposal.
"We are not where we need to be in the Tulsa Police Department," Bynum said, answering a reporter's question about his FY22 budget's public safety components. "When I came in as mayor, we had about 730 officers. Today, we are at about 840, a little over that. But the independent recommendation to us is that we need to be at 950."
"We've made a lot of progress, but we're about halfway to where we need to be from where we were when I started as mayor," Bynum said.
Bynum's office said the number of officers was recommended in a 2015 report prepared for the city by the University of Cincinnati Institute of Crime Science, funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which found TPD should employ 958 officers.
Community organizer, police reform advocate and former mayoral candidate Greg Robinson said Thursday he does not believe the city should pursue such an increase in staffing before a thorough overhaul of policy and a robust and independent oversight and accountability mechanism is put in place.
"The fact of the matter is is that there is a large percentage of Tulsans that do not feel safe, that do not feel the way that the city's public safety departments are currently constructed works best for them," Robinson said. "So by continuing to ignore the concerns stated and researched over and over again by community members, we are putting ourselves in a position where we could be the next city that is reacting to an issue that we could have been proactively preventing."
Robinson compared adding officers without cultural and policy shifts within the department to "playing Russian roulette with our entire city."
"You can look across the country at other cities that have fewer officers but better policies in place, fewer officers but better cultures in place," Robinson said.
"I don't believe that continuing to add and add and add police officers to the force without providing them the proper support is the solution," he said.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation is a financial supporter of Public Radio Tulsa.