Tulsa Police racial discrimination lawsuit settlement tossed out

Friday, August 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Just when it looked like they might have a settlement, a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Tulsa Police Department is headed to trial.

A federal judge rejected a consent decree Friday after the city backed out. News on Six reporter Steve Berg says the lawyers for the city and the lawyers for the black officers who filed the suit "had" reached a settlement.

But the deal fell apart Thursday when Mayor Bill LaFortune pulled the city's support for it, saying the settlement was not in the best interest of the city. The judge Friday said the case is basically right back where it started. Black officers first sued the city back in 1994. They claim, among other things, that black officers don't get support when they call for backup.

The judge Friday gave the two sides one week to come up with a new schedule. He says the door is still open for the two sides to come up with a new settlement. But the plaintiffs say the city has taken everything out of the old settlement that was important to them. And they say they're not happy with the Mayor's actions. Tulsa Police Captain Walter Busby, "He was not interested in what we had to say nor interested in sitting down with us. Which leaves us little hope that we'll be sitting down and negotiating with us, I mean if he couldn't talk to us in the last month, what makes us think he's going to talk to us anytime in the near future."

So in all likelihood, the case is headed for what many believe will be a messy trial. And the meter is still running on legal fees. The plaintiff's side estimates they've spent about two million, and they guess the city has spent about the same.