OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There were proposed changes unveiled today for the Oklahoma City Police Department. Each recommendation is laid out in a 33-page report just released Tuesday.
It’s been over a year since civil unrest erupted across the country and here in Oklahoma over issues like racial injustice and police brutality. Now, for over a year, Oklahoma City officials have been working with citizens and law enforcement on police reforms. Today, hard proof of progress, but some say its not enough.
“I’m always open to anything that is an improvement,” said Chief Wade Gourley of the OKC Police Department.
Gourley’s reaction to the 33 police reform recommendations were released by the City of Oklahoma City on Tuesday. After civil unrest came into the spotlight in June of 2020, OKC city, police and community leaders, along with everyday citizens, have been meeting regularly to discuss changes.
“I’ve seen a lot of passion, passion on both sides,” said Assistant OKC City Manager Kenton Tsoodle.
Tsoodle says that list includes things like increased police response training, accountability to the community, increases in mental health help for calls and for officers themselves, and changing police de-escalation procedures.
“When they are dealing with persons that are white, Caucasian people, the process that they use to de-escalate is far different than that for us, in black and brown skin. So, they know how to do it, but they just don’t utilize those practices because of racism and white supremacy and inherent bias,” said T. Sheri Dickerson, President of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma.
Dickerson is part of the group discussing the changes. She says talks have been constructive, especially those involving the recommendations that officers involved in a shooting be interviewed before the end of their shift instead of the current 48-hour waiting period, and prohibiting officers from viewing video evidence before providing an interview about a critical event.
“I do, I do support that. That is something agencies are evolving to. They are getting the interview first, getting that raw emotion, getting the officers interpretation of what happened and then allowing them to view the body camera afterwards,” said Gourley.
“(I’m) hoping that they are trying to focus on being accountable and use a different level of ethics in how those investigations are held, that’s hopeful, but really, I would just prefer that they not kill people,” said Dickerson.
We reached out to the Oklahoma City Fraternal order of police. Their President, John George, released a statement, saying the following:
“We are always interested in evaluating the best ways to protect our community and ensure the safety of the men and women of law enforcement. While we have had no formal discussions about these recommendations, it is clear many of them would be subject to negotiation under our collective bargaining agreement. We look forward to participating in the ongoing process of determining what is best for Oklahoma City.”JOHN GEORGE, OKLAHOMA CITY FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE PRESIDENT
These are just preliminary recommendations. All sides say more discussion is necessary before a finalized list is expected to be given to the OKC City Council for a vote. With passage, officials say some of the changes could be made before the end of the year.