BY SHARON MARTIN
My son-in-law was a decorated Tulsa policeman. After five years on the job, he, along with 126 other officers, was laid off. During negotiations between the FOP and the mayor’s office, I had a front row seat for the sordid theatricals. The mayor wanted officers to accept a 15%-plus compensation cut. Why wouldn’t these college-educated men and women take the deal? I’m sure the mayor would have accepted equal cuts for his staff!
From the mayor’s office has come a steady stream of misinformation. A 5% pay cut doesn’t sound nearly as bad as the reality. The number of policemen to be laid off changed on a daily basis. Stressed men and women continued to perform their duties despite the uncertainty.
The final number came in at 155, but a last-minute acceptance of concessions allowed 28 policemen to keep their jobs. Guess what the headline was: Mayor’s Office Saves Jobs! I’m thinking the headline should have mentioned the reduction in force, but that was left to a later press conference in which the new police chief, Chuck Jordan, outlined citizens’ duties.
That’s right, citizens must protect themselves now. Stay tuned for part two of Lawless in Tulsa. Jordan announced that TPD no longer has the manpower to respond to some calls. Tulsans initially were asked not to call the police if they are involved in a non-injury car accident. That meant tickets wouldn’t be written for those at fault unless alcohol was involved. How would we know for sure? I guess we may need to start carrying our own breathalyzer.
You should carry a camera with you at all times, too. Take pictures if you are involved in an accident. This will help if you have to file your own accident report. You are, of course, expected to tell the truth about what happened.
[TPD later announced that they will respond to non-injury accidents again. Not sure where they’ll get the manpower. The mayor’s office sat on a COPS grant application that would have provided funds to rehire 35 officers, my son-in-law included.]
What will this loss of officers in the traffic and motorcycle units cost? Estimates for shortfall in ticket revenues run as high as $3 million to $4 million. This is money that goes into the city’s general funds.
There will be other negative effects. Don’t call 911 if someone is breaking into your vehicle. I suspect this will cause higher vehicle insurance prices in the Tulsa area. And more joy rides.
The street crimes unit has been shut down. Prostitution and drug charges will no longer be investigated. Perhaps that is the upside of the mayor’s policies. There will be fewer nonviolent offenders behind bars. Of course, there will also be fewer violent offenders jailed.
Tulsa had the only police department in the state that required college degrees of its officers. The new mayor doesn’t think a college degree is worth the price, and he intends to replace the laid-off officers with sheriff’s deputies. Instead of a college degree and academy training, the new hires will need a high school diploma or GED and CLEET training. I think I qualify.
Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, is working hand-in-hand with Mayor Bartlett. Sullivan, a Tulsa County Reserve Deputy, has proposed a bill that will kill the policemen’s union. HB 2654 will give sheriff’s deputies more police powers inside city limits. The deputies can provide services for Tulsa at a cheaper price. Chief Jordan, former captain of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department, supports the new law.
That’s what this whole show has been about, folks, a showdown between the mayor and the union. Well orchestrated, well publicized, but with unconvincing performances, it still may earn an Oscar nomination or two.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton and is a frequent contributor to The Oklahoma Observer