Tulsa Delays Vote For Office Of Independent Monitor

Wednesday, August 28th 2019, 8:10 pm
By: Amy Avery

Tulsa City Council says more discussion is needed before they move forward with the Office of Independent Monitor and Citizen Oversight Board for the Tulsa Police Department.

Tulsa City Councilors have decided to postpone their vote on finalizing the ordinances for the Office of Independent Monitor and Citizen Oversight Board.

They left the item on the agenda for their Wednesday night meeting in order to get more public comment on the topic but believe there needs to be more clarification on the exact role of these new additions for oversight for the department.

City Councilors and the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police are both in agreement that more discussions need to happen before they make any decisions concerning this newly created office, but right now there is a lot of concern about how much power this office will have.

“It’s not just watchers watching watchers, we have to decide do we have a problem or not and what are we going to do about it and another layer of oversight doesn’t get us to that,” said Tulsa FOP Board Chair, Jared Lindsey.

Fraternal Order of Police Board Chair Jerad Lindsey says they've been talking with several police departments around the country, who say their crime rates have gone up since they've implemented an Office of Independent Monitor.

“The more you disincentivize them going out and making arrests and interacting with bad guys trying to prevent crime, the less they're going to do it,” said Lindsey.

Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum says the Office of Independent Monitor does not investigate anything; they just monitor the investigation that is being done.

He says all that is being proposed in this ordinance are the things that the OIM would review and how their assistance would be requested. The mayor says the citizen oversight board would review how the case was investigated internally, then provide feedback.

After meeting with constituents, District 6 City Councilor Connie Dodson says her biggest concern is having a board of people making decisions who aren’t familiar with the investigation process.

She says she had between 45 and 50 people from multiple districts in attendance at her town hall meeting and only 3 were in support of it. She says some are supporting some type of oversight, but they don’t think this board would be independent enough.

“You don’t bring in outsiders that aren’t in depth into that field and ask them to be the oversight or sit on that board,” said Dodson.

Dodson says she doesn't have a problem with getting public feedback, but believes it isn't worth the cost when these oversight services are already available through OSBI. 

“Those are people that have been trained in that field, they’ve worked in that field, they’re entrenched in that field,” said Dodson.

District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper says she's received a lot of positive feedback, but believes even more oversight is needed.

She believes the office should be able to conduct their own investigations, instead of just reviewing the one that's already been done. She also believes this board should have the power to investigate citizen complaints and the power to recommend discipline.

“There’s no opportunity in that process to engage or say hey you might want to think about doing it this way instead of doing it that way,” said Hall-Harper.

Hall-Harper says she is also interested in visiting some other cities that already have an office of independent monitor in place like Denver or Nashville.

“We don’t want to go and make mistakes that other communities may have made so if we can go and learn from these mistakes, I think it’s worth it that we do that,” said Hall Harper.

The project costs about $500 thousand dollars-- and the FOP believes that money would be better spent going back into neighborhoods to reduce crime.

“A half a million dollars can make a huge impact in these people’s lives and quality of life and overall reduce crime and increase quality of life in our entire city," said Lindsey.

They also discussed how many members should be on the citizen oversight board and how they would be chosen.

The city council says they want to continue discussions with the public and get more feedback before they move forward with this topic.

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