Tulsa’s Mayor explained the current plans for a City office that would independently provide some oversight to police.
Mayor G.T. Bynum assured City Councilors the proposed “Office of Independent Monitor” would have the limited role of reviewing Internal Affairs investigations, and the limited authority of reporting their findings to the Police Chief.
Bynum said the existing chain of command would remain intact, and responsibility for officer discipline, would remain with the Chief.
The mayor explained some of the still evolving plans for the City Council to help assure Councilors would approve a $250 thousand budget item intended to fund the start-up of the office. The Mayor said if the plans were delayed, the money would be redirected into other areas, as is routinely done at Council.
The Mayor is proposed an office that would have a full time, professional serving as “independent monitor” who would have oversight from a 12-person Citizen Oversight Board.
“The purpose of this group is to oversee the work of the independent monitor. This is not a group of citizens we're sending to do internal affairs investigations or to interview police officers, none of that” said Bynum.
The Mayor spent several hours insisting the monitor would only review police internal affairs investigations. The monitor would have 10 days to report to the police chief and would not have a role in disciplining officers.
Bynum said, “This is about having an outside independent verification of the investigation that's conducted so citizens can know it was done the right way.”
As the Mayor and Council discussed all this, the room slowly filled with police officers representing the Fraternal Order of Police.
“We haven't gotten a policy, a draft policy, we've had speeches” said Jerad Lindsey, the Chair of the FOP. He said the union is fine with a professional law enforcement agency reviewing critical incidents, but not an independent monitor, or untrained citizens without police department input, and regardless, he says it's a contract issue.
“Anytime you create a new bureaucracy into the process, you've changed the process, and that's a negotiation point” said Lindsey.
Several city councilors expressed support for creating the monitor’s office, but Connie Dodson worries that what sounds good to them now could be changed by the next administration.
"This absolutely could be manipulated in the future" said Dodson. “Based on other administrations and the scope of the duties, expanded, beyond your intent.”
The mayor said today there's a long way to go before the ordinance is finalized. The Council approved the $250 thousand in the budget for the coming year as part of the overall City budget.