Mayor puts police chief on administrative leave after learning of an outside report on Tulsa Police's SWAT team

Tuesday, February 21st 2006, 5:37 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa’s police chief is on paid administrative leave after an announcement Monday morning by Mayor Bill LaFortune, which he says Police Chief Dave Been withheld a vital report that harshly criticized the police department’s Special Operations Team.

The mayor says Been asked for a special review of the TPD SWAT team and got the report, all without his knowledge. Mayor LaFortune now says he'll appoint someone to do an independent review of the chief's actions, then make a final decision on Been's job. For now, Deputy Chief Bill Wells is the acting chief.

The real question is why did the department need to hire an outside expert to review the SWAT team? The report has not been released to the public, but News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright has been investigating and says it's all about the SWAT team's tactics and whether those actions put officers or citizens at risk.

Sources say the first incident was on July 16th, 1999 at 1708 South College. The SWAT team responded to a call of a suicidal man. At the time, Tulsa Police told us the man waved the gun around and shot himself once, and officers shot him twice. Sources say there was concern over tactics because one officer shot the man after he was dead.

Sources say the next incident was on September 23, 2003 at 2853 East Admiral Place. Records show a standoff occurred because a man was shooting at his neighbors and even fired at officers. He surrendered 10 hours later. Sources say there was some concern over why it took so long to resolve, however, mental health professionals praised police for their patience.

Sources say the third incident was July 27th, 2005 at 6108 South Trenton. Officers got into a standoff when they believed a suspect was inside the house, but, later discovered he was not there. Sources say there was concern officers were put at risk by making entry through a window rather than deploying tear gas.

Sources say the next incident was on September 6th, 2005 at 1708 East First. Records show a robbery suspect took people hostage inside a McDonalds. SWAT convinced him to let the employees go, however, the suspect came out with them, pretending to be an employee. He didn't fool officers and they arrested him. Sources say there was concern because an officer accidentally fired a round from his gun. Tulsa Police say it was a weapon malfunction.

Sources say the final incident was a standoff on October 30th, 2005 at 29 North Lakewood. Records show a man held a woman and two children hostage and shot the woman many times. Tulsa Police got the hostages out, and then shot the man in the arm.

Sources tell the News on 6, there were concerns because officers fired many rounds, some of them, through a wall. There are allegations an officer returned to the scene and may have tampered with evidence.

Based on the preliminary report from the expert, Chief Been had already accepted the resignation of the SWAT captain and appointed a replacement. And more resignations are expected this week. Also, the SWAT team leaders have done a report, disputing some of the experts' findings.

People should know the SWAT team has 40 officers, three paramedics and 10 negotiators and this report names only a few.