'Buying Rank' May Persist While Mayor's Investigation Underway

Thursday, May 26th 2016, 11:19 pm
By: News On 6

Should Tulsa police officers be able to pay big money for a higher rank? The question remains after the investigation News On 6 and The Frontier aired back in March.

Our story revealed some officers eligible for promotion pay older officers to retire, freeing up their ranks. After it aired, the mayor promised to get to the bottom of it.

3/16/2016 Related Story: Tulsa Police: Decades-Long Practice Of Buying Rank

But Marq Lewis said he filed a formal complaint with the City of Tulsa in March, and still hasn’t heard back.

He and his activist group, We The People, believe allowing police officers to buy rank, even though they qualify for the promotion, is an ethics violation.

"It's been, what? Over two and a half, three months, we haven't had a response. If the city was going to do something, it should have immediately addressed this issue," Lewis said.

What's more, officers may still be buying rank.

Records reviewed by The Frontier and News On 6 indicate officers have been buying and selling titles - corporal, sergeant, major - since 2010.

Since our first story ran, three more sergeants retired and three officers were promoted just before the promotions list expired on April 1. No public records exist to show whether any money was exchanged in any of the cases.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett vowed to investigate the practice in March. When we asked his office for an update, they told us the city's Human Resources and Legal departments are looking into it, but that it's too early to comment.

When we asked how much longer the investigation would last, they didn't have an answer.

We did get answers from City Auditor Cathy Criswell. She said there's evidence showing ‘Buying Rank’ would qualify as fraud, an ethics violation, or even a disciplinary action.

3/17/2016 Related Story: TPD Practice Of 'Buying Rank:' Is It Legal?

She said, "We have done some research and found instances where this act was either found to be an ethics violation or a criminal act."

Tulsa City Councilor GT Bynum, who's running for mayor against Bartlett and was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, called for the current administration to be more transparent in its investigation.

"We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, always, in government. Need to not look at what is legal, but really what we ought to be doing, and I think, for most citizens, that practice just doesn't pass the smell test," he said.

Our partner, The Frontier, is also working on this story. You can find more on their website.