In The Know: Blacks in Tulsa more likely to be subject to police use of force

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Blacks in Tulsa more likely than whites to be subject to police use of force: An African-American in Tulsa was about 2½-4 times more likely to have force used against him or her by a Tulsa police officer in the past six years than a Caucasian, according to a Tulsa World analysis. That figure rises to approximately 3 to 5 times more likely when blacks are compared against all other races combined. The Tulsa World compiled Tulsa Police Department use-of-force data by race from 2010 through 2015 and paired it with American Community Survey demographic numbers to determine per-capita use of force rates each year in Tulsa [Tulsa World].

At Mental Health Event, Discussions Touch on Homelessness, Stress and Police Shootings: An annual Tulsa symposium on mental health this week brought home the reality of efforts to combat the problems of addiction and mental illness and distress: that the war must be waged on many fronts. A last-minute change to the program illustrated the fact. The main theme of this year’s Zarrow Mental Health Symposium, which ran from Wednesday to Friday, was sharing and finding ways to eliminate chronic and veteran homelessness. But the fatal shooting on Sept. 16 of Terrence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man, by a white Tulsa police officer prompted organizers to include the subject of police shootings in panel and other discussions during the 22nd symposium [Oklahoma Watch].

Criminal justice reformers begin final push for State Questions 780 and 781, Robert Henry makes formal endorsement: In September, the ‘Yes on 780 and 781’ campaign, led by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, launched the next phase of its statewide drive in the wake of Gov. Mary Fallin’s proclamation that State Questions 780 and 781 had secured November ballot status. In wake of the news, Robert Henry, former Oklahoma Attorney General, announced his support for State Questions 780 and 781, which would pursue a smarter approach to public safety by reducing the prison population and redirecting savings toward addressing the root causes of crime with rehabilitation, treatment, and job training services [CapitolBeatOK].

Medical marijuana question will head to voters: The medical marijuana petition has survived the specter of challenge and will be on a ballot. Opponents had until Thursday to question the number of valid signatures collected on the measure, which would set a statutory framework for people to grow, sell and possess marijuana products for medicinal use. Oklahomans for Health collected 67,801 signatures to place their measure on the ballot, a margin that narrowly met the requirement. If opponents had challenged the signature count, they would have needed to find only 1,814 invalid signatures to kick the me [Journal Record].

David Boren: The case for State Question 779: On Election Day, we will face one of the most important issues in the history of our state. Nothing has been done to solve our state’s education crisis. It is up to all of us, the people of Oklahoma, to take action before our system of public education is damaged beyond repair. We must vote yes to pass State Question 779. Our teacher shortage is so critical that about 50,000 students are in classrooms without trained teachers. Almost one-third of our school districts have had to go to four-day school weeks. Oklahoma is headed to dead last in the nation in what we spend per student to educate our students [David Boren / Tulsa World].

Fertile debate grows over Oklahoma ballot measure to provide constitutional protection for agriculture: The debates at the cash register on State Question 777 have gotten heated at the local food store Urban Agrarian in Oklahoma City’s Farmers Market District. “I’ve had people come in and ask me to just tell them about 777, and we’ve also had people come in and tell our staff ‘you’re part of the problem in this country,’ ” said Urban Agrarian founder Matthew Burch. The store sells and promotes goods and produce from Oklahoma farmers. Burch said he personally opposes the constitutional amendment — and the business has anti-777 campaign signs displayed prominently around the shop. However, Burch said he’s tried to understand both sides of the issue [NewsOK].

Inconvenient alcohol laws are no substitute for funding addiction treatment: State Agencies are working on their budget requests for FY 2018, and eCapitol reports the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking for $37.8 million to pay for additional drug and alcohol treatment and prevention services if SQ 792 passes a vote of the people in November. Some might see this as a way of opposing SQ 792 [OK Policy].

Liquor store owners question fairness of alcohol modernization efforts: Voters on Nov. 8 will cast ballots on State Question 792, which would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell strong, cold beer and wine. The state question would allow liquor stores to have up to 20 percent of their sales consist of non-alcoholic items, such as mixers, something currently prohibited. “Those are such inconsequential things,” said Rod Davidson, who with his wife, Julie Davidson, owns Grapes & Grains and Vintage Liquors & Wines in Tulsa. “They don’t add up to much” [Tulsa World]. See OK Policy’s guide to this year’s Oklahoma state questions here.

Mary Fallin stays at No. 9 in least-popular governor rankings: Gov. Mary Fallin remains No. 9 in Morning Consult’s ranking of least-popular governors released last week. Fallin’s disapproval rating increased from 47 percent in May to 53 percent now, according to the polling firm, while her approval fell from 42 to 40 percent. The least-popular governor continues to be Kansas’ Sam Brownback, who has a disapproval rating of 71 percent [Tulsa World].

Four Oklahoma Schools Honored With National Award: A Tulsa high school earned a national honor Friday. The Federal Department of Education named Booker T. Washington as a 2016 National Blue Ribbon school. The award is based on academic excellence. Three other Oklahoma schools also received the top honor; they are Sadler Arts Academy in Muskogee and elementary schools in both Piedmont and Altus [NewsOn6].

Our schools aren’t the same as they used to be: If there is one constant in the world, it is that things change. Our schools are not the same as they used to be. The demographics of our city have evolved and the demographics in Oklahoma City Public Schools have changed in similar fashion. The current demographic makeup of OKCPS students are: 51 percent Hispanic, 24 percent African American, 16 percent Caucasian, three percent Native American and two percent Asian. With 90 percent of our students qualifying for free and reduced lunches (meaning they live at or below the poverty line) our schools are under tremendous pressure to meet additional needs of not only our students, but their families. Poverty and the stresses of the working poor are in our city. It may not be visible from a commute downtown on I-235, but it is there [Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools President Mary Mélon / NewsOK].

Federal Ruling Could End Nursing Homes’ No-Lawsuit Pacts: A new federal ruling could settle a long-disputed question of whether Oklahoma nursing homes can force patients or their families to sign away some legal protections as a condition for admission. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a final rule this week that blocks nursing homes that receive federal funds (almost all do) from using pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements. Over the years, this controversial practice has been used by dozens of nursing homes and assisted living centers in the state as part of their admission contracts [Oklahoma Watch].

Report shows better method for Oklahoma tax “triggers”: Under a law passed several years ago, Oklahoma’s top income tax is automatically cut in years of sufficient revenue growth. Yet that “trigger” law didn’t work as envisioned. A new report from the Tax Foundation highlights how lawmakers can avoid similar problems in the future. Well-designed triggers, the foundation says, “limit the volatility and unpredictability associated with any change to revenue codes, and can be a valuable tool for states seeking to balance the economic impetus for tax reform with a governmental need for revenue predictability.” Well-designed is the key [Editorial Board / NewsOK]. This year’s tax cut trigger shot Oklahoma even deeper into a massive budget hole [OK Policy].

High-ranking infrastructure congressman tours Tulsa with Mayor-elect Bynum: Mayor-elect G.T. Bynum took Pennsylvania Congressman Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on a tour of Tulsa’s infrastructure accomplishments and needs Sunday. Shuster’s role as chairman of the infrastructure committee had him focused on Tulsa’s proximity to the Port of Catoosa, one of the most inland ports in the country, and Cushing, a major intersection for oil and gas in the country [Tulsa World].

DOJ subpoenas Chesapeake documents: The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Chesapeake Energy Corp. for possible antitrust violations. The agency subpoenaed documents related to how the driller pays royalty owners and accounts for oil and gas reserves. Chesapeake disclosed the subpoena Thursday in a regulatory filing. It’s likely the Justice Department is examining other oil and gas companies as part of the investigation, said Jeremy Oller, University of Central Oklahoma professor and economics department chairman [Journal Record].

Oklahoma newsrooms’ racial diversity lags U.S. average: The American Society of News Editors has conducted a census of racial diversity in newsrooms every year since 1997. The stated goal of the annual study is to have “the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025.” ASNE recently released its 2016 numbers, and the results show that, nationwide, “people of color make up about 17 percent of newsroom staffs.” In Oklahoma, participating newsrooms exhibit an average of 14.5 percent minorities on staff [NonDoc].

Quote of the Day

“If you can go out and gather over 65,000 signatures with virtually an unpaid signature-gathering effort, then you’re on to something. You’ve seized the zeitgeist. We knew it was a matter of time before Oklahoma began to put some rationality into our drug laws, but what we’re seeing now is it’s very likely to happen a lot sooner than any of us thought whether it’s with this ballot question or another.”

-ACLU Executive Director Ryan Kiesel, speaking about a petition to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma that has qualified to be placed on the ballot in a future election (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children ages 0 to 5 whose parents reported that their employment was affected by child care issues.

Source: KidsCount Data Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Bail Reformers Aren’t Waiting for Bail Reform: The nationwide movement for bail reform is advancing, gradually, through legislatures and courts. Just last week the U.S. Department of Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing for the first time at this level that putting defendants in jail because of their inability to pay bail is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, bail reform advocates increasingly are taking direct action: raising charitable funds they use to put up bail for defendants too poor to pay their way out of jail [The Marshall Project].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “In The Know: Blacks in Tulsa more likely to be subject to police use of force

  1. The Robert Henry endorsement of the coming initiatives omits the most important thing about those votes, primarily because to mention them would change the debate. However, the removal of “stakeholders” from the reform process could reaffirm an important strategy for future reform in OK and elsewhere, as it did in CA and with the marijuana votes in CO, WA, AK, etc. There’s a reason why the participants in all the “commissions” and “workgroups” and other policymaking [sic] bodies are described holding “stakes” over the outcomes. Except in rare cases when policymakers with real power and real interest in change get behind the reforms and/or even rarer cases when the needs for change are so great even those who hold stakes can’t deny them, these “stakeholder” bodies so proudly advocated by the policy schools and their grads produce at best very predictable minimal change and more generally serve as smoke and mirrors to divert actual reform, like all the groups Governor Fallin has produced for crim just reform and the commissions and JRI workgroups that preceded them. If these initiatives pass, certainly Speaker Steele won’t even then talk about the dramatic impact they will have, far beyond their likely small-term actual effects on prison populations, through their demonstration that the best and shortest path to real criminal justice reform is to cut those who have the greatest “stakes” in the status quo out of the deliberations. But people in other states are already taking note and will see it as his greatest achievement nationally.

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