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Term Limits On The Table For Tulsa Police Officers

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Term limits are being considered as a possible option to conclude a 15 year discrimination lawsuit against the Tulsa Police Department. Term limits are being considered as a possible option to conclude a 15 year discrimination lawsuit against the Tulsa Police Department.
'Skilled' positions like SWAT team officers would be exempt from the term limits policy. 'Skilled' positions like SWAT team officers would be exempt from the term limits policy.
Sergeant Gary Stansill of the Sex Crimes Unit thinks the citizens of Tulsa would be the losers if term limits are enforced. Sergeant Gary Stansill of the Sex Crimes Unit thinks the citizens of Tulsa would be the losers if term limits are enforced.

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The City of Tulsa is working to end a 15-year-old discrimination lawsuit initially filed by a black police officer in 1994.

The News on Six has learned one option being considered could be term limits for police officers serving in specialty units like homicide and sex crimes.

Any police officer who has served 15 consecutive years in one or a combination of those units could be forced to leave, regardless of job performance.

The discrimination lawsuit filed against Tulsa Police in 1994 took on class action status in 1998 and was resolved by a consent decree in 2003. This meant the Tulsa Police Department would be under federal supervision for five years.

A federal judge is ready to end that supervision and asked the parties to work out any unresolved issues.

The City, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Black Officers Coalition have been meeting, but those discussions are confidential; however, The News On 6 has learned term limits could be an option.

The idea was born a couple of years ago, separate of the consent decree, when the department formed committees to discuss the promotional process and specialty assignments. Units like the bomb squad, SWAT team and helicopter units would be exempt since they're considered skilled positions.

If the 15 year term limit goes into effect, Homicide Sergeant Mike Huff and about half that unit could be back out on patrol. Even if they haven't been in homicide 15 years, many have been in a combination of specialty units that long.

Sergeant Gary Stansill would not be affected but says one of his detectives could be.

"It could force a very experienced, outstanding investigator to have to leave," said Sgt. Gary Stansill, TPD Sex Crimes unit.

Stansill points to the case of serial rapist Gary Graham. He says it took every bit of his 21 years experience as a sex crimes investigator and that of his team - and even the FBI - to catch Graham. Even then, it was after several children were victimized.

He believes opportunities do exist in specialty units because of natural turnover. Stansill also believes losing valuable experience and making decisions based on a number rather than job performance isn't fair to anyone.

"You're gambling and who are you gambling with? You're gambling with the safety of the citizens of this city, that's who you're gambling with," Stansill said.

In Tulsa's homicide unit, six of the 14 detectives are minorities. In Sex crimes, it's four out of seven. Those who support term limits say they don't believe it's any more difficult for black officers to get into these units than white officers - it's just difficult, period.

They believe if one minority is impacted more than others, it's women.

They say 15 years could be three-fourths of an officer's entire career and believe it's important to give other officers opportunities. They acknowledge detectives gain a lot of expertise in these units but argue officers in the field bring a lot of their own expertise into the units.

Nothing is a done deal as the court has not signed off on any agreement at this time.

Facts About Tulsa Police Speciality Units:

  • 341 officers serve in TPD specialty units, and 29 are black.
  • Sex Crimes unit: four of its seven detectives are minorities
  • Sex Offender Registration unit: five of its six detectives are minorities
  • Homicide Unit: six of 14 detectives are minorities

 

 

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