Law enforcement agencies can quickly implement policy changes to improve relationships with the Tulsa community, the founder of a local grassroots activist group said Tuesday.
During a press conference, We the People Oklahoma leader Marq Lewis suggested three policy changes that Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office could implement to increase trust, transparency and safety.
His suggestions followed a week in which two black men were fatally shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota; and a sniper angered by those killings ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas.
The first recommendation would be to make TPD and TCSO policies available online to the public. Lewis said having policies online would help the public keep officers accountable.
“No one should have to submit an open records request to see a certain section of a policy,” Lewis said. “… We need to know what officers are going by. We don’t know that. That’s not transparent.”
Policies regarding officer-involved shootings are especially important to have online, Lewis said.
The information can help the community understand an officer’s actions and see whether he or she was following protocol, he said.
“When you take a life, we’re not talking about a ticket, not talking about a scrape, we’re talking about a life,” Lewis said. “Someone’s not going home that night.”
In a statement emailed by a TCSO spokeswoman, Sheriff Vic Regalado said the department is willing to meet with members of the community to make changes.
“At TCSO we always strive to improve our level of service to our community through education, training and experience,” Regalado said. “We are open to meeting with members of our community to hear their suggestions on how we can better serve them.
“But since being elected as Sheriff, I have not been contacted by anyone from ‘We the People’ to ask for a meeting.”
A spokesman for TPD said the department is unavailable for immediate comment on the group’s recommendations until Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan can review the policy requests.
We the People Oklahoma plans to meet with law enforcement, but wanted to present the policies to the public first, Lewis said.
The group also recommended that immediately after officer-involved shootings, all officers should be given a blood test, along with a psychiatric evaluation.
It’s shocking the public knows everything that happened to the victim of an officer-involved shooting but little about the officer, Lewis said.
“We don’t hear about what could have possibly impaired the officer,” Lewis said.
Lewis said that 14 people in Oklahoma have been killed by police officers this year.
In the emailed statement, Regalado also said the sheriff’s office “values the safety of deputies.”
“The mental and physical health of our deputies is paramount,” he said. “After a deputy is involved in a traumatic incident such as a shooting, we have measures in place to address and psychological needs they may have.”
Casey Roebuck, TCSO spokeswoman, said the sheriff’s office doesn’t currently administer blood tests to deputies after use of force. Applicants complete drug tests during the screening process, but don’t receive additional tests “unless there’s a reason to.”
Lastly, the group recommended a policy that when police reports are revised, all versions are accessible to see what changes were made and why.
“By the time a police report is taken and by the time it goes to court, it has gone through at least four or five changes,” Lewis said. “Things have changed a bit. So we will know what the previous police report said.”
The policies are achievable and can be implemented easily, Lewis said. If law enforcement agencies consider the recommendations, they could manage to put their policies online by the end of the week, he said.
The group also wants to see the Legislature pass a bill that mandates the recommendations, Lewis said.
“We will push it,” he said. “Evidence has shown that we won’t give up.”