The truth about Tulsa Police officers on the streets

Friday, March 3rd 2006, 10:13 am
By: News On 6

When the crime rate goes up, many people feel the answer is more police officers. The Tulsa Police Department has been vocal about a shortage of officers and blames the mayor for the shortfall.

Mayor Bill LaFortune’s new campaign ad that says he added more officers in one year than any other mayor. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright sorts out the numbers.

Here's how Tulsa hires police officers. The mayor approves the budget and decides how many people will be hired for an academy class and when. Then the police department takes applications, does the testing and background checks.

Mayor Bill LaFortune's claim of adding more officers on the streets in one year, refers to the fact he approved the hiring of 87 people in 2004-2005, which is a lot. But police say it leaves out an important fact, that the mayor let the city go for more than two years without hiring a single officer and now, the department is behind in the game of catch-up.

LaFortune was elected in April of 2002 and didn't approve an academy until July of 2004, when he hired 40 and 36 graduated. He hired another 47 in January of 2005 and 45 graduated. In July of 2005, he hired 30 and 28 graduated. That's 109 police graduates who were hired by LaFortune.

The Tulsa Police Department loses an average of 3.2 officers a month, through retirement and other issues, so that equals 144 officers gone since LaFortune was elected.

Tulsa Police also point out there are officers currently serving in the military because of the war.

They say hiring certainly helps, but isn't an immediate fix. That's because it takes six months for a rookie to get through the academy and graduate. They then must spend another four months riding with a field training officer before they're considered street ready and allowed to patrol on their own.

Mayor Bill LaFortune hired 20 officers in January and they'll graduate this summer. The rookies who graduated three months ago, will be street ready in April. Plus the mayor announced Thursday he will hire 43 more to begin the academy this summer. Tulsa Police say it'll still be 14 to 16 months before the staffing situation gets better.