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Independent group releases report on bias in policing in Tulsa

Tulsa police
Posted at 2:51 PM, Sep 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-12 23:20:00-04

TULSA, OK (KJRH) — On September 12, Human Rights Watch shared the findings of a new, independent report on bias in policing in Tulsa.

The study is called "'Get on the Ground!’: Policing, Poverty, and Racial Inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma", and includes ten sections of an investigation into policing in Tulsa. The report claims policing targets minorities and poor communities, "diminishing their quality of life."

The report stems from the killing of Terrence Crutcher almost exactly three years ago, which "initially led Human Rights Watch to examine everyday police interactions in Tulsa".

Click here to read the full report.

Read samples from the study below:

"Tulsa has a serious crime problem, in particular high rates of homicide, rape, and domestic assault. Tulsa’s rates of violent crime are well over the national average. However, police tactics have bred distrust and driven a wedge between and law enforcement and affected local communities, making provision of public security more difficult and raising questions about whether these tactics are effective in stopping crime."

"This report is, in many respects, a case study of abusive, overly aggressive policing in the US. While it looks at high-profile police killings in Tulsa that have brought attention to policing in the city, it also looks at higher frequency police interactions with civilians, including use of non-lethal force, police conduct of stops and searches, issuance of citations, enforcement of court debt (unpaid fees, fines, and costs), and, more generally, how police behave in day-to-day interactions with people."

"This report focuses on policing primarily as it impacts black communities in Tulsa, and especially poor black communities, that face policing in its most intensive forms. As will be made clear throughout the report, poverty, regardless of race, is a substantial factor in understanding interactions between civilians and law enforcement, predicting frequency of arrest, detentions and possibly uses of physical force."

"The investigation leading to this report found evidence of racial bias in policing outcomes, but not proof of pervasive racism. No doubt, there are officers and commanders who hold and act on racist viewpoints, whether explicit or implicit. There is evidence of racial bias in the descriptions of the treatment of black people by police and in the difference described about policing in primarily black parts of North Tulsa. There is evidence of racial bias in the disparities in racial impact of policing encounters."

At the end of the report, Human Rights Watch recommends changes to different governing bodies. These are abbreviated lists; to see the full lists begin at page 210 of the report.

It suggests the Tulsa city government:

• Form an independent community oversight body with meaningful powers of access, subpoena, investigation and discipline.
• Fund more non-law enforcement mental health professionals to conduct outreach and to provide support for people with mental health conditions, as well as to respond more comprehensively to emergencies that may be related to these conditions.

As for the Tulsa Police Department:

• Impose strict reporting requirements for all police contacts with the public, including stops and “consensual encounters,” tracking who they contacted and what actions were taken;
• End the practice of questioning arrestees about their citizenship following arrests;
• Establish a system to avoid arresting people on “failure to pay” warrants.

To the State of Oklahoma:

• Reduce the number, scope and amount of fees and costs that are imposed on poor people accused and convicted of crimes
• Ensure that sufficient health care facilities, hospitals, mental health care and drug treatment are easily accessible to all people throughout the state, and that health care coverage is widely available.
• Improve the quality of schools, including services within the schools.
• De-criminalize the possession of drugs for personal use and develop non-punitive, supportive approaches to assist people with harmful addictions.

To the Federal Government:

• Congress should support states and local jurisdictions to promote improved education, job training, mental health support and care, economic development for low-income communities, affordable housing for low-income people, drug treatment programs, support for victims of crime and re-entry services for people returning from jails and prisons.
• Congress should make federal funding for any law enforcement agency contingent on that agency’s compliance with data collection and reporting standards, including collection of data on police use of force incidents, arrests, detentions, citations, searches and consensual encounters, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender and other relevant demographic markers. This data collection should be anonymized to preserve privacy.
• Congress should amend federal statutes so that no adverse collateral consequences attach by law to convictions for drug possession, including barriers to welfare assistance and subsidized housing. It should support evidence-based, voluntary treatment options and harm reduction services in the community.

The recommendations go on:

"Human Rights Watch recommends that the city, state and federal government prioritize direct response to societal problems like homelessness and mental illness through appropriate services and investment, including job development and educational opportunities. Adding more police officers without a significant change in how they operate and with insufficient accountability is likely to enhance, not ameliorate, existing problems."

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