A Tulsa Police Department major who drew public criticism for penning an editorial on a police website about recent officer deaths is among four commanding officers transferred this week by TPD.
Maj. Travis Yates, who had helmed the department’s Gilcrease Division in north Tulsa, was transferred to Special Operations. Yates, who is editor in chief of lawofficer.com, a site for police officers across the nation, wrote an article titled “This is war.”
Sgt. Shane Tuell told the Associated Press on Wednesday that chief Chuck Jordan had reviewed the article and found its wording “inappropriate.” Tuell said Jordan would not comment on if Yates had received any discipline for the article, and public information officer Leland Ashley said Thursday that Yates’ transfer “had nothing to do with any article or any type of punishments.”
In the article, posted to the website on Sunday, Yates talked about how the deaths of five officers in Dallas and three officers in Baton Rouge, La., reminded him of how he felt after the Sept. 11 attacks more than a decade ago.
“We are at war! The men and women behind the badge know it. Good leaders know it and decent communities know it. For the safety of all of our men and women behind the badge, it is time our country knows it,” Yates wrote.
The article was criticized on social media and Yates was briefly jeered on Tuesday at a panel on police violence at the Greenwood Cultural Center. He told the panel audience that he wrote the article after becoming emotional following the high-profile killings of police officers, but that he did not consider himself or TPD at war with Tulsans.
Yates, as head of the Special Operations Division, will be in charge of several units, including:
- Air support
- Bomb squad
- K9 units
- Motorcycle units
- Special Operations Team
- Dive team
Replacing Yates at the Gilcrease Division is Maj. Wendell Franklin, TPD’s only black major. Franklin, who was promoted to major in 2015, was previously commanding officer over the department’s Riverside Division.
Maj. Paul Fields, who had been in special operations, will replace Franklin at the Riverside Division, Ashley said.
Maj. Steve Bayles and Maj. Laurel Ledbetter are swapping roles: Ledbetter, formerly over the records division, is moving to TPD’s Mingo Valley Division in east Tulsa. Bayles will now head the records division, which Ashley said is the “official repository for all police and collision reports” created by TPD.
“The division completes data entry into the department’s records management system and handles both officer requests for information and public requests,” Ashley said.
Majors move throughout the department “periodically,” Ashley said, though it’s rare for all three divisions to have new commanders at the same time.
“Usually (a transfer occurs) when someone gets promoted,” Ashley said.
The last time a change happened was in 2015 when Jonathan Brooks was promoted to deputy chief. Brooks, who had been over the Riverside Division, was replaced by Franklin.
Ashley said the new assignments became official Wednesday.