Muskogee Police Department Partners With Pastors, Community For Transparency

Monday, June 15th 2020, 10:09 pm
By: Kristen Weaver

At a time when tensions are high between police departments and citizens, the Muskogee Police Department and their community have a plan in place.

Muskogee police said after every shooting or major event, they call the preachers from across the community. Pastor Rodger Cutler with St. Mark Baptist Church said he and other preachers can view the video and talk to their congregations before it goes public.

The partnership began after an officer involved shooting in 2015, when the police department first showed pastor's body camera video of the incident before releasing it to the public. Officers said it could serve as a model for others.

"Those problems start with an evil heart, and what better way to work on hearts than church?" said Muskogee Police Chief Johnny Teehee.

Teehee, along with five pastors from area churches, said the unrest happening across the country between law enforcement isn't what people in Muskogee see.

Last week, citizens peacefully protested for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Teehee said it's just one example of how their approach to community policing has worked. "It's not just to be present, it's about building relationships," Teehee said.

Teehee said he invites all officers in the department to join him at a different church one Sunday every month and the pastors get to know most officers by name. "Because we have a seat at the table, there's no need to tear up the community. That’s communication, transparency," said Cutler.

This plan, along with community activities like sports and police passing out popsicles to kids, is what Teehee said will prepare their community when something bad happens again.

"With civil unrest across the country, Muskogee is one of those cities doing it correctly," said Pastor Marlon Coleman with the Temple of Hope Church.

Teehee said he's also committed to making their police department more diverse and has an incentive program for new recruits.