Tulsa police arrested and cited black people at rates greater than others in the past five years, says a Tulsa World analysis of government data. Since 2012, the African-American arrest rate by Tulsa police officers was more than two times that of non-black people. Municipal Court data indicate that black people were ticketed by Tulsa police at greater rates than others from 2012 to 2016. African-American motorists were ticketed at rates ranging from 1.5 to 2.2 times greater than non-black people. African Americans were arrested at rates ranging from 2 to 2.5 times the rate of non-black people. Police Chief Chuck Jordan said he doesn’t think one can “make an assumption” that arrest and citation rates have to match a municipality’s population demographics. He said the “vast majority” of arrests are non-discretionary, meaning a victim has identified a suspect or the person has an outstanding warrant for fines, citations or crimes.
“I suspect we have a socioeconomic factor as far as arrests,” the chief said. “I think you have a portion of the community that is somewhat disenfranchised, and a portion of the community that is not at the same economic level. I think history has proven that we’re going to have more crime problems from that community. I think that’s a societal problem that I absolutely think we need to fix.” Jordan said most driving citations are determined by radar. Officers have “no idea what the race is” of a motorist while using radar and “most times” can’t tell from behind while driving, he said. Pleas Thompson, NAACP Tulsa chapter president, said the arrest and citation rates don’t surprise him because “it’s been that way for years.” He said racial profiling still happens, and offered an example of several black people in a “pretty nice car” attracting police attention. He believes officers will look for a reason to pull the car over, expecting to find drugs or an occupant with a warrant for his or her arrest.