TULSA, Oklahoma -- A Tulsa Police Captain has been disciplined because he refused to order officers to attend the Islamic Society's law enforcement appreciation day next month.
He is being investigated by TPD's Internal Affairs for violating the department's obedience policy.
News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright has obtained TPD memos that say Captain Paul Fields believes it was unlawful for the department to tell him to order officers to go to the event so he refused.
Fields said the order conflicted with his personal religious convictions and violated his civil rights.
He said if it was a call for service, he would readily respond, but just an invitation to tour a mosque, watch a prayer service, meet Muslim leadership and receive a presentation of their beliefs wasn't related to his work as a police officer.
A flyer from the Islamic Society of Tulsa invites all Tulsa officers to attend the law enforcement appreciation day on March 4, 2011.
"We tried to anticipate these concerns by stating on the invitation what time the prayer service begins and ends so they could come observe if they wanted or if they wanted nothing to do with the religious portion, they could come, eat, visit and leave at their leisure," Sheryl Siddiqui, Islamic Society of Tulsa, said.
Memos show it was originally voluntary to attend, but because of a lack of people signing up, Deputy Chief Daryl Webster sent a memo saying each patrol division would send a total of 6 officers and 3 supervisors to the event.
Captain Paul Fields, who has been on the force 16 years and had never had any disclinary action, but has received many commendations, wrote in a memo that he believed the order was illegal and would not follow it and said past invitations to religious and non-religious institutions for similar purposes had been voluntary.
"We want to make it very clear, it's not related just because it's a mosque, hasn't anything to do with his ultimate decision," Scott Wood, Fields' attorney, said. "It has to do with the intersection of religious rights of an individual to not associate with other people if they choose not to."
However, Chief Daryl Webster responded with an interoffice correspondence that it was a community outreach operation, which is a function of community policing, which is as much a part of police work as responding to calls.
Webster noted that officers have been assigned to similar outreach events at the Jewish Community Center, churches in north Tulsa to reach out to African American citizens and churches in east Tulsa to reach out to Hispanic residents. He said officers have even given protection to members of the Westboro Church who protest at soldiers' funerals.
Webster said it doesn't violate the constitution or the rights of individual officers to meet with the public they serve in a place they have chosen.
Two days later, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan reassigned Captain Fields due to the internal affairs investigation. See personnel order #2011-14.
"This is not about religion, it's about a group of people who did bond together and bonded together because they're religion, but we're not going because they're Islamic, we're going because they're Tulsa citizens," Jordan said.
Paul Fields plan to file suit in federal court Wednesday against Chief Deputy Webster.
Shortly after noon Tuesday, the Tulsa Police Department issued a statement about the controversy:
"The Tulsa Police Department has been invited to a Law Enforcement Appreciation Event at the Islamic Society of Tulsa. One of the Department's missions is that of Community Outreach. To facilitate this effort, the Police Department determined this event was a community outreach opportunity and attendance was appropriate.
This community outreach event is a function of community policing which is every bit as much a part of this department's mission as call response. This event is an opportunity to meet the public we serve, exchange information and build trust.
Furthermore, the Department never has and never will select who we provide services for based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity or preferences. Police officers often are required to contact citizens of diverse backgrounds and provide equal service regardless of any real or perceived bias.
Contrary to what may have already been reported in scheduling this event, the Police Department and the Islamic Society of Tulsa very deliberately arranged attendance so that officers need not participate in any religious discussion or observance that would create any discomfort or inconvenience for them.
The Tulsa Police Department is disappointed that our department's position has been so thoroughly misstated."
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