Discrimination Lawsuit Results To Shake Up Tulsa Police Special Units

Thursday, May 20th 2010, 7:18 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6 

TULSA, OK -- A 16-year legal battle between the Tulsa Police Department and the Black Officers Coalition ended Wednesday with some stipulations that will shake up the police department.

One of those stipulations is term limits – meaning any police officer who has been in a specialty unit or a combination of units for 15 years, must leave and go back to patrol.

The department doesn't know yet how many officers are affected. Those against term limits say people should be allowed to stay in a unit as long as they're doing a good job, that it should be based on their performance, not a number.

Those in favor of them, say it'll make those units accessible to more people, especially minorities.

Six of the 13 members of Tulsa's homicide squad are minorities. Term limits mean three members of the squad, including Sergeant Mike Huff and one minority would have to leave. Another minority officer would be booted next year.

The idea behind term limits is to allow more people a chance to work in these units that include homicide, robbery, burglary, sex crimes, family violence, child crisis, narcotics, gangs, and traffic units.

5/19/2010 Related Story: Settlement Approved In Tulsa Police Discrimination Lawsuit

The Black Officers Coalition says it's too hard for any officer, minority or not, to get into these units and that will now change. They say patrol officers can bring fresh ideas to the units, and the detectives leaving them can add experience to the streets.

"I know, myself, when I first started in patrol, detectives who had been in detective division a long time, came back into the field and were very helpful to me as a young officer - and brought a lot of knowledge," said Tyrone Lynn, a Tulsa Police officer and member of the Black Officers Coalition.

Sergeant Gary Stansill is the head of the sex crimes unit. He is not affected but will lose two of his six detectives, including a minority. He said in a previous interview, what matters most is what's best for the citizens. He believes losing experienced people with special training who have become experts in their field, who are doing a great job, is not best for citizens.

A study shows there is a 60 percent turnover rate every five years in specialty units, so those against term limits argue there are plenty of chances for new people coming in without sacrificing experience.

See Tulsa Police Department Race And Gender Charts

Those for term limits say the department isn't losing that experience; it's just shifting it to a different place.

There are about 700 officers on the department and around 300 specialty unit jobs. Some units are excluded from the term limits, like helicopter, K-9 and bomb squad.

These changes go into effect in the fall. An officer must stay out of a specialty unit for at least one year, before applying to get back in.

The Fraternal Order of Police says it will challenge term limits in court.