OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Dozens of members of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police rallied behind Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley Tuesday morning following demands for his resignation by the local Black Lives Matter movement.
The demand was one of several made Monday night, and included an apology from both the police chief and Mayor David Holt, as well as the release of protesters who were arrested.
BLM leaders blamed the police chief’s leadership for what they said was unwarranted aggression against otherwise peaceful protesters.
But FOP leaders insisted they only resorted to using tear gas and guns loaded with rubber bullets after protesters sparked the violence.
“Some of these guys were seeing bottles and rocks thrown at them, that’s what we were seeing,” said FOP President John George at the rally.
“We don’t react to gender, we don’t react to race, we don’t react to color, we react to the way people behave when laws are broken. That’s at the core of what police officers do,” said FOP Vice President Mark Nelson.
The FOP condemned those who they said hold them accountable for what happened with George Floyd in Minnesota.
“That’s not how we do it here in Oklahoma City, so if we want to focus here in Oklahoma City and how to improve, let’s do that,” Nelson said.
Black Lives Matter OKC Executive Director Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson said while they stand with George Floyd’s community, his death also triggered years of pent up frustration for the behavior of officers in Oklahoma.
She said it’s reactions from officers that have resulted in the deaths of people of color.
“We’ve been asking for how long to say, ‘Are you paying attention and do you care that we’re dying?’” Dickerson said.
FOP leaders pointed out that they have made change, including employing bodyworn cameras, and requiring de-escalation training.
“We’re all part of this community – we live here, this is our community,” said MSgt. Travis Hinton, a person of color and an Oklahoma City police officer who said his sons took part in the protests.
“I serve our community, I love my Oklahoma City. So the [de-escalation] training is there. It’s always going to be there.”
But Dickerson argues it’s still not enough.
“We would hope that the Oklahoma City Police Department would want to be the agency that is the example of how to bring change,” she said.
Chief Gourley has declined to respond to calls for his resignation.