police department budget
Police gathered in a Northwest 19th Street parking lot between Western Avenue and Classen Boulevard blocks from a protest Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Tres Savage)

The OKC City Council voted 8-1 today to receive 39 police policy recommendations from 21CP Solutions, a consulting firm hired to collect input from the public and formulate ideas for changes.

The council, police department and city manager will now decide which of the police policy recommendations will be implemented in the coming months and years.

Ward 1 Councilman Bradley Carter was the lone vote opposed to receiving the recommendations (embedded below). Carter opposed police reform efforts during his campaign last year.

The hiring of 21CP Solutions and the formation of a citizens task force in June 2020 came in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that ignited a firestorm of protests across the nation, including Oklahoma City, which ranks high when it comes to the number of people killed during interactions with police.

The deaths of 60-year-old Bennie Edwards and 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez, who were both shot by Oklahoma City police in November and December 2020, also stirred outrage.

A report by found the department killed 48 people over a six-year period beginning in 2013. Oklahoma City Police Department chief Wade Gourley disputed the 2020 report, but a review by The Frontier said the numbers were accurate.

Recommendations cover variety of areas

The 21CP Solutions recommendations cover a variety of aspects of policing, including how police confront those who may be subject to the use of violent force. The organization also recommends creating a crisis intervention committee that would study ways police interact with those in the community with mental illness.

Other recommendations include:

  • OKCPD should prohibit officers from viewing video evidence before providing an interview in a critical event, such as an officer involved shooting;
  • OKCPD should eliminate the 48-hour waiting period prior to interviewing officers involved in shootings;
  • The OKCPD and City Council should consider increasing the budgeted numbers of officers trained in CIT (Crisis Intervention Techniques) based on the number of calls that require that form of response;
  • OKCPD should revise its use of force policy to include providing a warning, when it is safe to do so, before using any type of force;
  • De-escalation should be elevated to the policy level to highlight it as a core department value;
  • The department should formalize its Force Review Board for holistic review of lessons learned from use of force cases.

Police chief praises effort

Gourley praised the process, but also noted that he and his staff had already been proactive in implementing some of the ideas that came up during task force meetings even before the list of recommendations was finalized.

“To look at what occurred out of this process for all of us is that opportunity to sit back and listen but also to be heard a little bit too,” Gourley said. “During all of these task force meetings, we sat and listened. And we didn’t sit back and say, ‘Let’s wait until this report comes out and see what happens.’ We know what we needed to do, and where we needed to go. We have a lot of experience in these matters and in law enforcement in general. We knew that society has changed and law enforcement has changed over the last several years.”

Gourley noted his own personal experience and how training has changed since he became a police officer.

“I was thinking today, as I was getting ready for work, I started in this job 32 years ago,” he said. “I was thinking of what I was taught in the academy and what I was taught then that is still taught today, and it’s almost nothing. And that shows you how that evolution is, and that’s a good thing.”

FOP supports most recommendations

Fraternal Order of Police president Mark Nelson spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, which featured about a dozen or so police officers in attendance.

Nelson said the FOP is committed to listening and discussing all of the 39 recommendations, before noting that there are some areas in which officers won’t have much input.

“It may be disappointing to some in the room, but our position is that we’re not opposed to what 21CP recommended in its entire format,” Nelson said. “We can easily recognize the value of the overwhelming majority. Of course we’ve looked at all 39 recommendations. We probably have little input on most of them. It’s not a secret there are some of these recommendations we don’t agree with. But what we haven’t done and will not do is dig our heels in and refuse to have discussions.”

Members of the public who strongly support police reform also spoke during Tuesday’s meeting. Hannah Royce, president of the OKC Pride Alliance, also released a statement ahead of the meeting.

“Oklahoma City has spent considerable time and resources to get these recommendations, many of which have been made by the community for years,” Royce said. “Oklahoma City cannot continue to top the lists of police killings. These recommendations represent concrete steps forward and we hope they will save lives. The city should accept and implement them as soon as possible.”

Council members are ‘at odds’

Following Nelson’s remarks, Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell praised the efforts of those involved before noting the relative unity he believes is in place to implement some of the recommendations.

“I think every reasonable [person] realizes the police officers are trying to achieve the same thing that’s presented in this report,” Greenwell said. “It’s not like we’re at odds with each other.”

But Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon disagreed with Greenwell’s assessment, noting a wide gulf between those actively seeking police reform and those who are more resistant.

“I struggle with this concept that we are not at odds because I think we are at odds,” Hamon said. “I think since 2020, this community has been trying to have a conversation about public safety that has been dominated by the idea that we are a dangerous city with dangerous people in it, and the solution has to be to disappear those people that are dangerous to us.”

Hamon said true paths to accountability have not been in place for police officers, which she believes is a core problem in police reform efforts.

“I hear a lot of stories being someone that is publicly discussing police accountability,” she told the council. “People end up sending me a lot of stories about their experiences with our police department. And it’s really hard to read them because at the end of the day we can point to policies we have and we can point to XYZ but there’s not really a lot of accountability to ensure the people who are doing this damage to our community are truly held accountable.”

Carter, the Ward 1 councilman, criticized the lack of data found in the 88-page 21CP Solutions report, adding that it seems to have focused more on emotions than hard data. He also said Gourley had already been working to implement some of the recommendations presented in the report.

“I agree with you and it doesn’t happen too often, I know,” Carter said in reference to Hamon. “We are at odds in a lot of ways. I sit here and I listen to how we feel, how we need to follow truth, we need to go back and forth and follow the science, and follow this. And I am equally disappointed that not one person stood up to say one positive thing about our law enforcement or anything that does go on in our community. When I ran last year, I had one door shut on me and every other person said I better back our police officers, and I knocked on 8,000 doors.”

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper said the recommendations will be a heavy lift given what is needed to implement them.

“Some of these things are going to involve changes in state law,” Cooper said. “Just be ready for that. It’s going to take state law to change some of these things. And when you look at a place like Colorado, it took them a decade to make those sort of changes in state law. But I am committed to this work. I am with you for that work.”

Read the full 21CP Solutions report

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