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Mayor Announces Plans for Office of the Independent Monitor

This article was archived on 2/16/2019

Mayor G.T. Bynum announced today that he will create the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) in the upcoming fiscal year to help with policy, outreach and oversight as Tulsa continues to implement its expansive community policing program.

For the past year, the Tulsa Police Department (TPD) has been working on the implementation of 77 community policing recommendations, including major initiatives such as instituting body cameras for all field officers and beginning the implementation of implicit bias training for all TPD officers. 

As of today, TPD has fully implemented 97 percent of the 77 community policing recommendations on an ongoing basis. The two recommendations remaining include the oversight system, which the OIM will fulfill, and the increase of training hours, which will be met once more officers are hired through the Vision Tulsa program. 

“As we develop our community policing program in Tulsa, we recognize the need for modernized oversight systems that provide accountability and transparency and build public trust between our residents and officers,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said.

The OIM will focus on three areas – policy, outreach and oversight. For policy matters, OIM will review best practices and provide recommendations on policy and procedure to help Tulsa’s community policing approach develop over time. For outreach, OIM will facilitate citizen dialogue and feedback to continue transparency. The oversight function will help follow up on citizen complaints and review TPD Internal Affairs investigations on use of force to ensure the correct process was utilized and issue public reports of its findings. 

“I think we have the best police officers in America. I’ve seen the sacrifices they make, and the selfless way they do their jobs. But we have not given those officers the tools they need to build trust. For decades, we understaffed their department - forcing them to spend most of their time in their cars reacting to 9-1-1 calls, and we relied on outside groups to facilitate citizen dialogue. When a use of force incident occurs that causes community concern, the only public discussion happens if the District Attorney files criminal charges or someone files a lawsuit. Internal affairs investigations are conducted confidentially, and citizens have no means of verifying their results. We owe it to the citizens and our officers to do better than that,” Bynum added.

As part of creating the OIM, Mayor Bynum will work with the City Council to create a Citizen Oversight Board. Citizens will be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by City Council to assess the effectiveness of the Monitor's Office. This Board will also play a role in the search to find the individual who will lead the Office of the Independent Monitor.

The Mayor also plans to keep his commitment to funding police academies. Thanks to the historic commitment over the last two years by City leaders, TPD currently has around 800 officers, with the goal of reaching 958. 

Tulsa learned about the OIM concept from the City of Denver, CO, which has been operating an OIM for close to 15 years. Best practices in other cities point to a few critical elements: (1) independence, (2) full-time expertise, rather than reliance on volunteers, (3) complete and timely access to investigatory information, and (4) transparency of policies and procedures. Mayor Bynum believes the OIM model will lead to a balanced approach for both citizens and police officers.

Community Policing in Tulsa

Composed of community members and city and police officials, the Tulsa Commission on Community Policing submitted 77 recommendations focused on community policing needs in Tulsa. You can view the report and track the progress of the recommendations by visiting, www.cityoftulsa.org/dashboards