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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The City Council of Oklahoma City will vote on acceptance of a report detailing recommendations for police reform Tuesday. The report concludes a 15-month process.

Less than 30 days after the first protest in 2020, the City set up several groups to consider a response to community demands for reform in the Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD). Eventually, consulting firm 21cp Solutions was contracted to do an in-depth study of police-community relations in Oklahoma City and to survey needs of the public, department, and officers.

The final report includes 39 recommendations for eight topics:

1. Training in Crisis Response
2. Police Officer access to Mental Health Services
3. Alternative Response to Mental Health Calls
4. Focus on Youth Outreach
5. Expansion of Law Enforcement Homeless Outreach Initiatives
6. Creation of a Neighborhood Safety/Violence Interruption Program

21-CP-RECOMMENDATIONS


Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 123 that represents OKCPD officers in contract negotiations has been resistant to some reforms recommended by the consultants, especially in the area of how mental health calls should be handled.

Also, the FOP has been resistant to accepting recommendations about how officers are interviewed by investigators after a shooting that involves an officer. The report calls for the officer(s) to be interviewed before the end of that shift. The FOP has negotiated for and won a mandatory 48-hour waiting period in the past.

If the Council accepts the report, they will be asked to approve further expenditures of up to $200,000 for the consulting firm to guide the implementation process in coming months.

City officials have also said that actually implementing the reforms would require additional spending in the future.

Survey

An extensive survey of residents of Oklahoma City carried out by 21cp revealed that the public generally has positive views of OKCPD but also that they strongly believe that more accountability measures should be taken within the department.

Especially in the area of de-escalation techniques and expectations that they would be used by officers, residents had strong responses. Here is a bullet point of the executive summary of the survey on that matter:

  • When respondents were asked their level of support for various de-escalation initiatives, 94% who had an opinion were “very supportive” or “supportive” of increasing community training and public education on how residents should call for emergency situations that involve a mental health crisis. Ninety-four percent (94%) who had an opinion were “very supportive” or “supportive” of increasing training for Oklahoma City Police Department leaders in mental illness engagement. No fewer than 87% were supportive of any of the five de-escalation initiatives listed on the survey.

Also, residents had a strong response in favor of police accountability. Again, from the executive summary of the survey:

When respondents were asked their level of support for various accountability initiatives, 94% who had an opinion were “very supportive” or “supportive” of the OKCPD shortening the waiting period for interviewing officers who have been involved in an officer-involved shooting or use of force incident. Ninety-four percent (94%) who had an opinion were supportive of OKCPD and the City actively beginning public education processes that give citizens a clear understanding of how they may make a formal complaint against OKCPD and its employees. Ninety-two percent (92%) who had an opinion were supportive of OKCPD prohibiting officers from viewing video evidence before providing an interview in critical events, such as officer-involved shootings.

This is the report of the entire survey:

OKCPoliceSurvey_FinalRepor

Protesters’ determination

The protests starting with May 30, 2020, lasted over several days and were the largest and most persistent in the City since the Vietnam War and Civil Rights protest days of the 1960s.

Starting with the protest on the evening of May 30, the passion and commitment of protesters was not just a sympathetic focus on the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, Minn. police. Rather, what poured out of determined protesters organized mostly by local Black Lives Matter leaders was an upheaval of anger toward the police within the City that had been simmering for decades.

The passion and anger focused on the Oklahoma City Police Department surprised many including leadership in the department and the police union.

After three nights of unrest focused on the OKCPD Headquarters and the Oklahoma County Jail that sits within a block of the HQ, the City ordered a curfew starting in the evening of June 2 in a designated area around the HQ and the Jail. It appeared as though there would be a showdown of some sort between authorities and those who persisted in protesting.

But, Mayor David Holt and leaders of the protests spent most of the day of June 2 in negotiations. The negotiations were successful in lowering the temperature of the situation as a whole. Holt agreed to lift the curfew and came out into the crowd of protesters in front of the OKCPD HQ and listened as long as there was anyone who wanted to talk.

Within weeks the City Council began to take action on exploring what might be done to involve more residents in the process of coming up with police reform in Oklahoma City. The points in that resolution then became the core of what 21cp was asked to look into over the next months of work.

In the months that followed the initial protests demanding police reform, a core of protesters then used their organization and enthusiasm to demand more reform focused on the Oklahoma County Jail and Oklahoma County DA David Prater.


The Tuesday Council meeting is at 8:30 a.m. March 1 in the Council Chamber at City Hall. Those who do not wish to attend may watch the live stream on the City’s YouTube channel.

Last Updated February 28, 2022, 4:38 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor