A draft version of an independent analysis of the Tulsa Police Department has found the law enforcement agency could use approximately 200 more sworn officers, said City Councilor David Patrick.
“It shows we’ve got some work to do,” Patrick told The Frontier.
The manpower figure was confirmed by other city officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The final report from the Institute of Crime Science at the University of Cincinnati will be presented to city councilors Tuesday. Councilors were briefed on the preliminary outcome of the study two weeks ago via a teleconference.
Patrick and other councilors met in small groups so as not to violate the state’s Open Meetings Act.
The study found that Tulsa is in the top 25 percent in violent crimes per capita among U.S. cities with populations of more than 250,000 and many of the city’s serious crimes are concentrated in specific areas.
It recommended the city increase its uniformed police level to 958 sworn officers. That is 206 more officers than the 752 sworn officers employed at the time the report was compiled. The city’s current authorized strength is 783.
The study recommended that the majority of new officers should be patrol officers, boosting the current patrol number of 343 officers to at least 459.
The Police Department’s organizational model should promote evidence-based approaches to crime, including detailed incident- and offender-based analysis of crimes to measure effectiveness of crime-prevention strategies.
The independent study focused on the distribution of crime in the city and police staffing levels and provides recommendations for evidence-based policing strategies.
Here are the other key findings of the report, according to numerous sources familiar with it:
The independent study is expected to play a key role in determining what is funded under a proposed public safety sales tax.
City Councilor Karen Gilbert and Mayor Dewey Bartlett are holding a series of town hall meetings to educate the public about the city’s public safety needs and their proposal for a dedicated sales tax to pay for them.
Gilbert declined to comment on the report Monday but said she looks forward to Tuesday’s presentation. Gilbert said she hopes the study’s findings align with the concerns and objectives she and the mayor are working to address with their proposal.
“It’s always helpful to have an extra pair of eyes looking at something,” Gilbert said.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation donated money to the city to pay for the study.
The Police Department’s authorized strength is 783 officers but the department as of Sept. 2 had only 749 officers, according to a PowerPoint presentation shown at the first public safety town hall meeting last month.
On any given month, especially when academies are in session, as many as 30 to 50 officers a month can be unavailable, according to Deputy Police Chief Jonathan Brooks.
In addition to cadets in training, the number of unavailable officers can include those on long-term injury leave and military leave, Brooks said.
Police officials stress that manpower numbers change daily.
During last month’s town hall meeting, Brooks explained that the city has fewer officers today than it did 25 years ago but serves a bigger population over a larger area of land.
The rate of attrition, meanwhile, is outpacing new hirings. The city is losing an average of 3.2 officers a month, or 38 to 39 a year, but only about 20 new officers will join the force this calendar year, according to the Police Department.
This has placed a strain on officers and limited their ability to do proactive policing, interact with citizens and provide proper backup when officers arrive at a crime scene, Brooks said.
After initially offering separate funding proposals for public safety, Gilbert and Bartlett announced in August they had agreed to a compromise that calls for using 0.2 percent of the Vision renewal and 0.1 percent of the Improve Our Tulsa sales tax renewal to fund their proposal.
The funding package would also include the use tax tied to the Vision 2025 sales tax. The funding package is expected to raise $27.5 million a year after 2020.
The public safety tax is expected to fund approximately 140 full-time officers in addition to paying for more firefighters and road repairs.
The public safety tax could be used to hire 60 patrol officers, 20 detectives, 12 traffic officers, six school resource officers and other needed personnel, according to last month’s PowerPoint presentation.
The independent manpower report comes on the heels of a recently released FBI report that shows crime rates nationally and locally continue to decline.
Part 1 crimes — the most serious — in Tulsa fell in all categories last year, according to a City Council report based on the FBI figures. The FBI receives its crime numbers from local law enforcement agencies.
Tulsa’s violent crime rate, for example, was the lowest it has been in almost 30 years in 2014, and is down 37 percent since 2008.
Although the University of Cincinnati study and FBI crime statistics appear to portray different stories regarding crime in Tulsa, officials familiar with both reports told The Frontier that when analyzed, they don’t. They note that even with declining crime rates the city’s ranking in serious crimes committed compared to other cities remained stable during the 10-year period covered in the University of Cincinnati study.
The City Council is planning to call an April 5 election for the Vision 2025 tax renewal, meaning the resolution declaring the election, and what is on the ballot, must be delivered to the Tulsa County Election Board by Feb. 4.
In addition to public safety, construction of low-water dams in the Arkansas River and other economic development projects are expected to be on the ballot.
Gilbert told her fellow councilors last week that she plans to have the details of the public safety tax in place by the end of the month. City Councilor G.T. Bynum, who is overseeing the development of the dam proposal, said it will be done by the end of the month as well.