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Wade Gourley is now the 50th Chief of Police for the Oklahoma City Police Department.

The 30-year veteran of the department will oversee 1,235 uniformed officers and 304 other staff members of the department.

Confidence, trust

After the news conference, Free Press talked to several officers who were among those who packed the public conference room at Police Headquarters downtown.

Master Sergeant Stephen Smith had served on patrol with Gourley and said he was “an outstanding patrol officer.”

“It’s good to have somebody that was in patrol and knows what patrol officers go through,” said Smith. “He was a better cop than I was.”

OKCPD Chief Wade Gourley visits with one of his officers after the news conference where he was introduced. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press.

“Wade’s been a solid guy ever since I knew him when he was single and right before he married his wife,” said Major Nick Elias.

“I can tell you he was a good policeman, a good patrolman, very competent, very conscientious, always doing the right thing. Through his career he’s actually never changed. And people trust that,” said Elias.

John George, President of Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, talked to Free Press about the confidence he has in Gourley.

“I think Chief Gourley is a shot in the arm for the morale around here. So I think he’s a good choice and I look forward to his … good ideas about some things and some changes,” said George. “He really cares about our officers and I think he will look out for us.”

Community orientation

Gourley talked to us after the news conference about mostly the advantages he sees in being promoted from within after having served in so many different roles over his 30 years with OKCPD.

“I think you get the best of both worlds,” said Gourley. “You get somebody who knows and understands the community because they’ve basically grown up around the community and served there.”

But, he’s clear about the challenges to becoming chief.

“There’s going to be times I’m going to have to make difficult decisions that might not be popular,” the Chief said. “And, I believe the officers are going to accept that a lot more from somebody that they trust and that they know. They know I’m not going to stand up and tell them to do something that I don’t believe in or that I don’t believe is helpful to not only us, but the city as well.”

Background

Gourley was first a police officer in the Chickasha Police department, then made the switch to OKCPD in 1989.

He spent 15 years in the patrol division. He has also earned promotions through the ranks of Investigations, Administration, Emergency Services and Uniform Support Division, the Tactical Team commander, a crisis negotiator, and Director of training.

OKCPD Chief Wad Gourley answers questions at the news conference where he was introduced as the city’s 50th chief. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

He moves into the top leadership position from among the department’s four Deputy Chiefs.

At the press conference where he was officially introduced as chief, Gourley teared up at one point when he talked about how supportive his wife and two children had been over the years of long, odd hours worked.

“They never tried to get me to quit,” he said fighting back tears. “They have always been there for me.”

He has been married for 27 years and has made the south side his home most of that time.

Initiation for new city manager

Although recently named City Manager Craig Freeman has been in various key roles in Oklahoma City government, the naming of the new chief was a big challenge. Chief Bill Citty had been in that role for the past 15 years.

Rumors circulated that this time the chief would be named from another city and break with the majority of the chiefs in the department’s history who had been chosen from within.

But, in the end, Freeman continued the concept of choosing from among the departments trusted leadership.

Craig Freeman, city manager for the City of Oklahoma City introduces the newly-named Chief of Police for Oklahoma City. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

“We held a thorough and deliberative hiring process, and choosing a Police Chief is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions I’ve had to make as City Manager,” said Freeman in a prepared statement.

“Chief Gourley fits the mold of what we’re looking for: He’s open, honest, innovative and experienced, and he will lead by example. I’m confident he will lead our Police Department to continue to serve and protect all residents in a fair and equitable manner.”