Tulsa police were about four times as likely to use force on black people compared to their uses of force against white people, an analysis by The Frontier has found.
The Frontier analyzed use of force statistics in 2014 reported in the Tulsa Police Department’s internal affairs report.
A higher use of force against one race does not by itself confirm a pattern of biased policing. However, civil rights activists often cite such disparities as evidence that law enforcement officers treat black citizens far differently than white.
In 2014, TPD reported 564 incidents in which officers used some level of force. Of the 564 incidents, the department reported the race of the citizen involved in 374 of the cases.
Broken down by race, the department reported 166 cases involved black citizens. In 2014, Tulsa’s black population was 70,678, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. That’s about 23.5 use-of-force-incidents per 10,000 black residents.
Meanwhile, 169 incidents involved white citizens. Tulsa’s white population was 284,712 in 2014. That’s 5.9 use-of-force incidents per 10,000 white residents.
Tulsa’s total population was 395,599 in 2014, meaning Tulsa police used force a total of 9.2 times per 10,000 residents of any race. (The Frontier based its per capita figures on the 374 incidents where race of citizen was known.)
When officers use intermediate or great force, or when a citizen suffers injuries during a struggle, the officer is required to complete a use-of-force report.
Intermediate force incidents can include the use of a Taser, pepper spray or physical control holds. Great force is likely to produce serious injury or death, such as the use of batons.
Verbal commands, firm grips or gestures are considered uses of low force.
Only one use of force incident was found to be out of policy and resulted in disciplinary action in 2014.
In 2015, the Tulsa Police Department reported 564 use-of-force incidents. Of those, 424 identified citizens’ races.
Because the most recent population estimates for Tulsa are for 2014, incidents per capita by race for 2015 are not included in this story.
Of the 424 incidents reported in 2015, 228 involved white people, 156 involved black people, 17 included Native American people and three Asian people. The department found all use-of-force incidents within policy.
Of the 564 division-reported incidents in 2015, the division reporting the largest number of incidents was the Gilcrease Division, which covers north Tulsa. About 30 percent of all use-of-force reported by police divisions came from the Gilcrease Division.
The Detective Division reported the lowest number of incidents, with 15.
The most common force type was through the use of Tasers, with 161 incidents, followed by impact strikes with 102.
From 2010-2015, Tulsa police were involved in 39 deadly-force incidents. All were found to be justified and within the Tulsa Police Department’s policies.
When an officer uses deadly force, TPD’s Homicide Unit investigates and then the case is sent to the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges will be filed.
After the DA’s review, the Tulsa Police Department’s Internal Affairs unit conducts its own investigation. That investigation is sent to a review board that determines whether the shooting follows policy and to identify any training issues that need to be addressed.
The chart below shows how many deadly force shootings and injury types occurred each year. The majority of incidents involved fatalities, with 18 cases.