By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Tulsa has 10 new police officers, but those new recruits almost didn't get to join the force. The union contract deal finished on Thursday prevented a layoff and the new officers would have been the first to go. As it stands, even adding to the ranks doesn't keep up with how many officers the city is losing.
The 10 police cadets graduated Friday and became Tulsa's newest police officers. They join a department so under stress from budget cuts that it only became clear late Thursday that the class would have jobs in the department.
"Both the mayor and I didn't want to go down that road if we didn't have to. We wanted to make sure we had plenty officers, as many as we could have given the financial situation and literally I came out here at 3:30 yesterday and told them they were going to be graduating," said Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer.
The mayor administered the oath to a class distinguished as being one of the smallest in the 100 years of the Tulsa Police Academy.
The 10 new officers add to the ranks, but Tulsa loses 30 officers a year to attrition, in addition to 45 positions cut from the ranks over the last 10 years. That leaves the department with 791 available officers. The next academy will have 20 cadets, but it's not scheduled until March 2010.
The new officers are done with six months of mostly classroom and firearms training, and now will go out with field training officers.
"They'll rotate through all the uniform field divisions and after 16 weeks be released to solo patrol," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Ron Kawano.
"All 10 of the recruits had an A average on their academics and all 10 passed their CLEET firearms exam on the first try, which is phenomenal," said Training Coordinator, Officer Chris Elliot.
One brand new officer, Shaun Downie, says he's ready to go.
"Right now I just want to get my feet wet patrolling the streets and that's my calling for now," said Tulsa Police Officer Shaun Downie.
Even though an academy is planned for next year, if the city has to make more budget cuts, it will likely be the first thing on the chopping block.