A city council task force recommended last month that while the police department establishes a real-time information center, the city should also implement a police watch program.
For councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, that starts with funding it.
“I will say this clearly: … Animal Welfare (Department), we have figured out how to address it in our budget, but the OIM (Office of the Independent Monitor) has been a request for several years, but for some reason, it does not work. It looks like … we’re moving forward with that recommendation,” Hall-Harper said during a committee meeting last week. “That’s my concern.”
The District 1 councilor asked the city’s finance department to find a way to fund a police oversight program in the fiscal year 2023 budget, which councilors are due to vote on Wednesday.
The $944.9 budget proposed by Mayor GT Bynum includes $148.7 million for the police department, including at least $2.55 million to fund the real-time information center.
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Police said the Real Time Information Center will initially operate out of City Hall and include around 50 video cameras – a figure that could change depending on the cost of the cameras and where they are installed.
Video from the cameras would be monitored 24 hours a day.
The equipment is different from the Flock System license plate readers that the police plan to install soon.
“According to our research, every major city you’ve all told us about has impressive real-time information hubs and also has independent oversight,” Councilwoman Lori Decter Wright said. “Most of them had it in place beforehand. Birmingham implemented it as an afterthought a year later, due to community demand for this balance.
The Office of the Independent Monitor was first proposed by Bynum in January 2019, but disagreements among advisers over how such a scheme should work – and what powers it should be given – left the proposal in limbo. .
Bynum’s OIM proposal was budgeted at around $500,000 per year. The task force’s OIM recommendation — one of 11 proposed to improve transparency and accountability within the police department — brought the figure closer to $750,000.
The Department of Animal Welfare funding Hall-Harper mentioned was an additional $622,000 it is expected to receive in the fiscal year 2023 budget for raises, equipment — including an X-ray machine – and other materials.
Police Chief Wendell Franklin has always opposed the implementation of an OIM. He told advisers on Wednesday that he was all for trying anything that would improve the efficiency of the police service, but did not believe an IOM was the answer.
“I talk to the chiefs of police… on their end about whether or not the offices of independent monitors, civilian oversight – how effective are they? And everyone I’ve spoken to laughs at IOM,” Franklin said. “Because either they’re ineffective and the officers don’t even know what they are and don’t understand them and they’re doing their thing and the police department is still running, or there’s been so much commotion and fighting interns among civilians.”
Hall-Harper disagrees with that assessment, saying she’s heard from police chiefs who support surveillance programs.
“We’re looking at real-time information hubs, and the vast majority of these (cities) have IOMs in place and have had them for years,” she said. “But we’re trying, I guess, to find a way not to.”
The Trust and Accountability Task Force was one of multiple council subcommittees set up to come up with proposals to address issues raised in the city’s equality indicators reports. The task force consisted of Councilors Mykey Arthrell, Hall-Harper and Wright.
The advisers looked at nearly 30 cities to determine how many had real-time crime centers and independent oversight of their police departments. Las Vegas – which Bynum and Franklin praised for the quality and efficiency of its Real Time Crime Center – was one of the cities that had both.
“Whether it is an Office of the Independent Monitor (IOM) or an alternate format, the City of Tulsa should establish an independent accountability entity that regularly monitors and reviews the TPD to increase accountability and compliance. transparency of policing,” the task force recommends. States.
Councilors disagree on moving forward with funding, with Councilor Phil Lakin arguing he would like to see if his colleagues would support a police oversight program – and what it would look like – before deciding. finance it.
Councilwoman Connie Dodson agreed.
“I think we kind of put the cart before the horse when we’re talking about funding something that this council hasn’t even agreed on the specifics of,” she said.