Tulsa Police chief Dave Been talks

Wednesday, February 22nd 2006, 8:35 pm
By: News On 6

For the first time since being put on paid leave, Tulsa Police Chief Been went on camera to tell his side of the story. He sat down for an exclusive one-on-one interview with News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright Wednesday afternoon.

Police Chief Dave Been says the shock has worn off and the frustration has set in. The mayor accused Been of covering up an interim report that was critical of the department's SWAT team. Been says it was no cover-up because he distributed copies of the report to the people it affected.

He says the mayor hasn't shown an interest in other interim reports, so he didn't think to deliver this one until asked by Clay Bird, the mayor's chief of staff. “He hires me as police chief to take care of business and I started immediately taking care of business and as soon as Mr. Bird called and asked for the report and I could rush back to Tulsa with the report, I hand carried it to him and he accepted it basically without comment."

Been says he'd already begun making personnel changes to deal with the SWAT situation, but was cut short when he was put on leave. He was sorry to hear the acting chief already made sweeping staff changes, since Been says both sides of story have yet to be heard. "We were doing interviews and given them the right to defend themselves which is the right and good thing to do but, what you have to do in a bargaining state and a civil service situation and that hasn't happened."

Been says the faster an objective investigation begins into how he handled the report, the faster he can be cleared. He says his own job is not his biggest concern, but the damage being done to hard-working, brave men and women. "What concerns me more than anything else is the broad brush of criticism the mayor painted on the SWAT team. He said there was criminal activity, corruption within the team and that is patently untrue."

When the city released the SWAT report Tuesday, it did not include this cover letter addressed to Chief Been.

"I realize this report is negative. There is more that is positive that can be said regarding the Tulsa SWAT team. The final document will create a balance that includes all of the 'good news' regarding the department." -- Ron McCarthy, SWAT expert

Been says knowing the complete document would arrive in April, he thought it best to deal with the most immediate concerns from the interim report, but not overreact, which he feels as been done now.

The News on 6 gave Mayor Bill LaFortune a chance to respond to Chief Been's interview. LaFortune says he is not painting all officers with the brush of criticism, only those named in the report.

He admits he mis-spoke earlier this week when he said he did not know about the report, but says that's not the real issue at hand. "If there's a report of an emergency nature of public safety, where lives are at stake, I need to know about it immediately and I consider that a real breach between a department head and myself. It really comes down to an issue of leadership that I'm very concerned about and that's what I'm trying to address as well as issues in the report."

LaFortune says he's in contact with a person to conduct the independent review and hopes to announce who that person is Thursday.