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Bittersweet goodbye: Tulsa Police Chief Franklin reflects on over 4 years

Posted at 4:16 PM, May 30, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — Outgoing Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin describes the last four and a half years as “taxing.”

During his time as top cop of the city, he dealt with the pandemic, civil unrest and several potentially contentious events like President Trump’s visit and the race massacre centennial.

“Lots of press, not wanting anything to go wrong,” Franklin said. “Most people will never know all the intel that came in, and things we were hearing could take place.”

The pandemic years were difficult for most, but particularly for those in the spotlight. They were a time that bonded Franklin with Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.

“When you sit next to someone for hours and hours on end, and you learn a lot about the person—that’s where those relationships deepen,” Franklin said.

WATCH when Franklin announced his retirement:

Chief Franklin Talks About Retirement

Despite challenges, Franklin is proud of his accomplishments, like updating technology and infrastructure.

He helped open the Real Time Information Center, and police headquarters will be moving into a new building.

Many of us remember a picture of Franklin holding a bottle of brown water that came out of the old building’s faucet.

“If I turned it on today, there would still be brown water flowing from it,” he said.

Franklin said one of the biggest challenges for Tulsa’s future will be navigating who has control over what—the tribes or the city—due to the Supreme Court McGirt decision.

“There is nowhere in the United States more complex than Tulsa, Oklahoma, right now,” he explained. “It’s not like we can pick Tulsa up and move it.”

He says the department is waiting on the courts for a more definitive answer. We asked him whether he worried some tribal citizens might feel untouchable in Tulsa or whether there could be hesitancy for officers to pull over drivers with tribal tags.

“Yes, I have that concern, and I have seen evidence of both,” he said. “When you have a justice system that is set up for one group and another for another group, there is not going to be fairness in that.”

After July 31, it will be the concern of Chief Dennis Larsen. Franklin said his experience and unwavering support make him the right person for the job.

“He told me, ‘I have worked for many chiefs, and I am not going to let you fail, and I am going to support you just like I support the others,’” said Franklin.

More from when Larsen was selected for the position:

Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen named chief of Tulsa police

Franklin says he lived out his dream job, so the goodbye will be bittersweet. But he’s ready.

“Sometimes you have to know when it’s time to step away and let someone else carry on,” he said.

After taking a few weeks of vacation, Franklin will take over as head of security at BOK Financial.

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