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Building trust

Tiffany Crutcher pushes to transform Tulsa Police

Tiffany Crutcher, founder of the Terence Crutcher Foundation

Greg Bollinger

More than two years after a Tulsa Police officer shot and killed unarmed north Tulsa resident Terence Crutcher, his twin sister Tiffany is still seeking justice for her slain brother and accountability for the Tulsa Police Department.

To that end, Crutcher is voicing her support for the Mayor GT Bynum’s proposed Office of the Independent Monitor.

In an effort to build trust between the community and law enforcement, Mayor Bynum has proposed creating a new agency to “review best practices and provide recommendations on policy and procedure” for a better approach to community policing, according to a press release.

The push to provide oversight for the Tulsa Police Department comes amid a year of changes to address a report from the Community Services Council and the City of Tulsa highlighting racial disparities in police use-of-force and trust among minority communities.

The Equality Indicators Report found, among other disparities, that black Tulsans are more than twice as likely to experience police use-of-force as white Tulsans.

For Tiffany Crutcher, bringing citizen oversight to the Tulsa Police Department has been a major goal since creating the Terence Crutcher Foundation after former Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby was acquitted in the shooting death of Tiffany’s twin brother.

“The verdict is what put the fire in our belly to go ahead and keep this fight going,” Crutcher said. Tiffany Crutcher described the moment the jury read the verdict acquitting the officer who fatally shot her unarmed brother as “painful” and “defeating.”

Crutcher said her mother, Leanna Crutcher, had a quiet strength throughout the deliberation process until the moment they walked past the cameras and entered the elevator.

“Once those elevator doors closed, she collapsed in the elevator and just started screaming out, ‘She killed my baby! She killed my son!’”

Despite wanting to give up, Tiffany Crutcher said family, friends, and community members inspired her to give a statement, which inspired her family to establish the Crutcher Foundation and pursue police oversight.

Tiffany Crutcher and her family are approaching these new developments with guarded optimism. “The Office of the Independent Monitor is definitely a first step,” she said.

While Tulsa’s Fraternal Order of Police threatened to sue the Mayor’s office if they implement the proposal without the union’s participation, some police officers came out in support of the proposal.

The Tulsa Black Officers Coalition acknowledged that they are the servants of the people and therefore accountable to the people.

“There are times when you have to get uncomfortable to gain a true perspective of the impact that you are having. However, if you continue to talk to yourself, you will always be right,” Sgt. Marcus Harper, president of the coalition, wrote in an email.

Tiffany Crutcher welcomes the support for oversight coming from the coalition of officers, saying it was “long overdue.”

“We’re not going to remember the words of our enemies, but we’re going to remember the silence of our friends,” Crutcher said, quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not everyone in city government feels as strongly in favor of the proposed oversight, however.

Tulsa City Councilor Cass Fahler for District 5 received mixed reviews from constituents after he wrote a Facebook post condemning the proposed Office of Independent Monitor as judicial overreach.

“Action to place TPD on trial by City Council via judicial hearings is being attempted,” Fahler posted. “This has further concerns because of future authority the OIM may attempt to seize, and its regulatory makeup … I call on all available Tulsa Police Dept. officers, family members, citizens and residents to stand with me in the fight to protect TPD,” Fahler said.

When asked whether his post caused more division than solutions, Fahler said he wishes his post had been clearer.

“It became convoluted between OIM and city council hearings on TPD. What I meant to do was to help contact, collect, and inform all police that the Mayor would be providing info, and that they’re welcome to attend,” Fahler said.

Fahler said that four councilmembers will be traveling to assess Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor. Councilor Hall-Harper, Councilor Dodson, and Councilor Cue will be joining Councilor Fahler on the trip.

“I do not feel like there’s a lot of tension between the community and police,” Fahler said. “We hear from a very small, vocal group that I don’t consider to be representative of all people.”

When asked whether he doesn’t believe the numbers from the Equality Indicators report indicating a majority of black Tulsans don’t trust the police, Fahler said he doesn’t know how the survey was conducted.

“I don’t know who they selected to conduct the review, but I’m diligently looking into those reports to find out exactly how the numbers relate to people trusting the police and how we can improve that environment,” Fahler said.

Tiffany Crutcher disagreed with Fahler’s post and called it divisive. “It was appalling and very tone deaf,” Crutcher said. “We’re trying to build trust with community stakeholders, law enforcement, and policymakers. How do you do that when you have an entity that’s pushing a narrative that this is anti-police?” Crutcher asked.

Through her continued efforts to transform the police in Tulsa, Tiffany Crutcher will never forget the last words her brother said to her. “I’m going to make you proud. God is going to get the glory out of my life.”

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