A police commander in Oklahoma is “under review” after he said that officers are shooting African Americans “less than we probably ought to be” during a local radio interview.
What We Know:
- The Tulsa Police Department denounced the comments made by Major Travis Yates, who is white, and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum called Yates’ comments “dumb” and demanded an apology in a Facebook statement.
- “He does not speak for my administration, for the Tulsa Police Department, or the City of Tulsa,” Bynum said.
- During the interview, Yates said advocates against police brutality have “made regular Americans believe that cops are just hunting blacks down in the street and killing them. And it’s completely the opposite of what the research says and what the data says.”
- Yates also referenced The Washington Post’s real-time database, which has tracked fatal shootings by police officers since 2015, and said the data showed that a lesser percentage of police shootings have involved unarmed black Americans than unarmed white Americans.
- Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white people, The Post.
- When asked if he believed black Americans weren’t being shot enough in an interview on Wednesday with Tulsa’s ABC affiliate on Wednesday, Yates responded, “That is absolutely nuts. I’m amazed that anybody would even ponder that. That’s crazy. I was citing data, that said they’re underrepresented in that data. And so, I don’t want anybody to be shot. Nobody does, but the data that most people are believing, there is alternative data out there and that’s the data I was citing.”
- In the interview, Yates repeatedly stated that he was unafraid of being “canceled” and was proud to speak openly about what he believed. He said he had received death threats over previous comments, but warned “if this is a viable threat, you better bring your friends”.
- Yates did not appreciate how his statements were covered by local media and released a statement that read in part, “cowardly leaders and less than truthful members of the media often contribute to myths, lies, and chaos. This is now happening to me personally”.
- Yates’ comments come amid ongoing nationwide demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day.
- Marcus Harper, president of Tulsa’s Black Officers Coalition, expressed concerns with Yates’ comments given his position “of power”. “His attitude is going to go downhill to that young, brand-new officer or that officer in field training right now,” Harper said at a Wednesday press conference.
- The department last week released body-camera video footage of two officers arresting two black teens for jaywalking. The video shows the officers aggressively tackling one of the boys to the ground while the other boy asks: “Why are you putting your hands on him?” “Get off me! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” the teen shouted. “You can breathe just fine,” the officer replied. “You’re fine.”
Yates, who supervises the Records Division, would be represented by the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police if the department acts against him, according to union chairman Jerad Lindsey. “It’s not currently in the FOP’s purview,” Lindsey said. “We have not been told of any discipline yet.”