TULSA, Okla. -- The Tulsa Police Department is facing not only scrutiny, but a budget shortfall, resulting in the loss of officers throughout the years.
The department said despite it's shortcomings, it’s officers dedicate their lives to the community, to protect and serve, no matter the risk.
But frustration builds as the department continues to experience a large shortage of officers in a growing city.
The department sees community policing as the future. Through proactive measures, and engaging with young people in the community, they feel they can stay one step ahead of problems.
“That's my biggest reward, is being able to not come in contact with kids that we arrest, but just seeing these kids who walk up to me with good grades, who I know like, I’ll never have to arrest him because he's on track,” Officer Amley Floyd, said.
But that's tough to do, when you're facing a major manpower shortage.
“The calls don't stop,” Floyd said.
And those proactive measures, will always take a back seat to 911 calls.
“It’s hard, so sometimes we drive by that kid that's sitting on the curb waving at us, and that may be the thought or perception he has - is we don't have time,” Floyd said.
When asked about the shortage, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said, “ I think that's probably an understatement."
For the chief, the situation is a crisis and for the Tulsa Police Department to be effective, and staffed at modern levels, he tells 2 Works for You it needs another 160 officers.
“The sad reality, we are at 1990 numbers,” Jordan said. “We are at the same numbers we had in 1990.”
And since 1990, the city’s population has jumped by nearly 40,000 residents. Adding insult to injury is the fact the current staffing level is around 15 percent short due to leaves, suspensions and/or openings.
“It’s hard going to work every day knowing that you're going to start out your shift, 15 to 20 calls behind,” Jordan said.
According to the chief, funding, or a lack thereof, is the biggest issue. And that’s where Vision Tulsa comes in.
That plan will provide $272 million over 15 years to grow the department and address violent crime, like 2016’s record number of homicides.
“Violent crime, there is a very clear correlation between the number of officers you have and the number of violent crimes that occur in the community,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said.
And the ultimate goal is having enough officers so community policing becomes a reality.
“Officers in a given area will get to know the people in that community, and we'll have enough officers where they'll have the time to do that instead of being of being in there car going from one call to another all the time,” Bynum said.
In the end, Tulsa Police will be connecting the community, instead of connecting the calls.
Currently, 23 officers are going through the police academy to join the department. The mayor said the vision plan will pay for three academies a year, with 30 officers per academy.
In five years, the hope is to have TPD staffed at full authorized capacity.
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