Tulsa, OK – The Tulsa Police Department (TPD) is pushing back against allegations that officers are more likely to use force against black suspects than white suspects.
The allegations of racially biased policing emerged in the wake of the Tulsa Equality Indicators 2018 annual report, according to KTUL.
The report declared that officers are more likely to use force against black citizens than other groups.
Members of the community held a public hearing to discuss the report on Thursday.
“We’re not asking for anything special,” United Coalition of Clergy spokesperson Barbara Shannon said during the discussion. “No special treatment. We just want the same respect and opportunities given to everyone else.”
But TPD says that the statistics outlined in the report are inaccurate, and that they arrive to a conclusion that is not true.
The report is based off Tulsa’s entire population – not just the portion of the population that has been arrested, Tulsa Police Sergeant Shane Tuell told KTUL.
“You are no more likely to have force used against you based on your race,” Sgt. Tuell explained. “The people who do have use of force applications are those who get [arrested].”
The flaw in the report’s methodology produced skewed results that makes it appear that there is a racial bias in policing, he said.
TPD is transparent about their use of force statistics, and have published over a decade’s worth of annual reports on the topic on their website.
In 2018, 51 percent of the individuals that TPD arrested were white, and 53 percent of the department’s use of force incidents were against white offenders, KTUL reported.
Thirty-seven percent of those arrested were black, and 36 percent of the agency’s use of force incidents were against black offenders.
By focusing on the population who was actually arrested – as opposed to the community at-large – the illusion that officers use force against suspects based on racial bias completely disappeared.
“We are as transparent as we can be,” Sgt. Tuell added. “We publish all of our data. We have bodycams. We have dashcams.”
While the report also suggests that the rate black citizens are arrested also prove racial bias, this has also been disproven.
Tulsa FOP 93 previously responded to NAACP accusations to let people know that it’s not possible for them to proactively target black people, because they hardly proactively arrest anybody.
According to the FOP, the department is so low on resources that they only mostly just respond to calls on a reactive basis, and don’t have much time to engage in proactive arrests, targeting black people or not.
“The vast majority of our arrests do not come from pro-activity (officers stopping cars, etc),” the union wrote to their members. “As you know, much of that does not exist as our call load has increased and staffing has decreased. A high majority of our arrests and contacts come from the victims that are reporting crimes against them. Simply put, in our current environment, if all TPD did was to respond to 911 calls, and arrest suspects after they had victimized our citizens, our arrests would continue to be disproportionate.”
What the “disproporionate” statistics fail to take into account is that the city’s crime is committed disproportionately.
Despite evidence to the contrary, many community members insisted that racially biased policing is a problem that the city needs to address.
Roma Presley said that the death of her son, Joshua Harvey, was a perfect example of how police target and abuse suspects, according to KTUL.
Harvey died at a Tulsa hospital in August of 2018, several days after he tore off his clothes and shattered the glass door of a bank in a drug-fueled rage.
Bodycam footage captured the chaotic scene, as Harvey fought with officers inside the bank lobby.
He was tased several times with little effect, but was ultimately wrestled into handcuffs and restrained.
Harvey died three days later due to drug use and a heart condition, KTUL reported.
“My son was an unarmed black man who died at the hands of Tulsa police,” Presley argued. “Our family will never be the same, and no family should have to through what we have.”
“We’re not saying the entirety of the police system or the entirety of the police force is bad or racist,” Terence Crutcher Foundation member Greg Robinson told KTUL. “What we are saying is that the system in and of itself needs to be fixed.”
Robinson said that the city cannot move on until the TPD recognizes that they have wronged black citizens.
“The first step in reconciling, the first step in moving forward is acknowledging where the city of Tulsa has done black Tulsans wrong and where the police department has done black Tulsans wrong,” he declared. “Taking action to make sure those things are not going to happen again. We’ll see a safer Tulsa for all Tulsans. We’ll see trust building for the police department for all Tulsans.”