Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive March 2016 Show 1613 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1613

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1613

This week on “Oklahoma Horizon,” our focus is on law enforcement and the challenges of 21st century policing.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1613

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1613

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Show Details

Show 1613: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: March 27, 2016

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” So what’s your first thought when you see a police officer? For me it’s probably checking my speedometer, but for others the emotions can range from fear to relief depending upon their situation. Today, we spend our time looking at the ever evolving relationships between law enforcement and the community and visit with the chief of the largest police force in the state, Bill Citty.

Bill Citty: It has its challenges obviously; it’s not for everybody. Not everybody could wear a camera and walk around and deal with really high-stress situations.

Rob: And we’ll get down and dirty with some young people putting their all into a career of police work.

Andrea Wood: Ever since I’ve been a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be a police officer. I’m fascinated with the idea of serving and protecting in whatever way I can.

Rob: Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

 

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company -- with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

 

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, every single day, police officers risk their own safety to protect ours. But in the court of public opinion, law enforcement is increasingly on trial, leaving many of those in blue feeling black and blue from all the scrutiny. Today, our focus is on the challenges of 21st century policing, and no one probably knows it better than our first guest.

Rob McClendon: Oklahoma City’s police department is our state’s largest and oldest law enforcement agency with close to 1,200 sworn officers whose jobs can be both rewarding and challenging all within the same day. It’s not for everyone, but for those who do wear the shield, it’s an opportunity to serve their community in situations most would run from. Since 2003, Bill Citty has served as Oklahoma City’s police chief.

Bill Citty: When the city manager was gracious enough to offer me this job, he said, I can remember it like it was yesterday, he said, “You can do 15 years, right?” And I said, I laughed, I said, “There’s no way. Five to seven.”

Rob: And that was 13 years ago. In the ensuing time, police departments like Oklahoma City have faced a growing number of challenges, domestic terrorism, racial strikes and mass shootings. Yet for officers like Chief Citty, it’s a job he can’t imagine not doing.

Citty: It’s a great profession. It’s a lot of fun, it really is. It’s one of those, those professions that you don’t, you don’t have to compromise, you know, your beliefs and those types of things. You’re working for the community. You’re doing good for the community. You’re helping people, saving lives. It’s a good career, and it’s been good to me.

Rob: I sat down with Chief Citty in the newly opened downtown headquarters to talk about law enforcement for the 21st century.

Rob: You know, every day your officers face challenges that police officers have faced for decades, but you know, it’s a hard job but one that seemingly is only getting harder because of mass shootings, domestic terror and even some of the racial tensions. How has policing changed in the time that you’ve worn the badge?

Citty: Probably the largest change is the obvious one and that’s technology. The scrutiny of officers has changed quite a bit since I first came on. There’s a lot more accountability within the profession. I think that’s all for the better. The moods or the ideals or the values of a community change. I mean, over a 30-year period, some of those things change. So as a result of that, laws change – requirements that officers have to adhere to. We’ve changed policies and procedures as far as use of force, those types of things. How we use force has changed dramatically. That’s probably one of the most high-risk areas to a police department is the use of force, which is one of those things that we have to do. We have to use force at times. So, but the scrutiny of those types of things, and especially right now, that you see going on across the country, is extremely high, and we’re just, uh, hopefully it’ll make us better. But other than that, the technology, the technology that we have to fight crime, the technology that the people we’re trying to catch, they’re using the technology as well, so, you know, we have to keep up with the technology to be able to analyze those types of things – forensically examine cell phones, iPads. I mean, the criminals keep a lot of stuff on their phones, their smartphones – photographs, those types of things -- which is evidence. So we have to be able to have the technology and training to be able to take advantage of that.

Rob: Talk to me about the psychology of an officer who knows that at any given moment when he’s out, life can change just like that.

Citty: Well, it’s, you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the street but I can tell you that officers who are on the street are constantly going through scenarios themselves – what ifs. You have to be to prepare yourself because there’s so much that you don’t deal with on a regular basis, but can happen at a moment’s notice. Your life could be threatened. Somebody else’s life could be threatened. It’s a, you know, a profession if you’re on the street and you’re taking calls for service, and in many cases, you know, somebody’s life may be at stake, it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions. I mean, your stress level is up and down. The adrenaline is up and down constantly if you’re in that police car. At the same time, you have to be able to control that and you have to be able to control it to the extent that you don’t drive too fast to a call because that’s just as dangerous in many cases as pulling that firearm out. So officers really have to be able to try to maintain control over their emotions as much as possible. But, you know, they make split-second decisions. And I can tell you the training is very, very important and that officer going through different scenarios as to what he will do if this and this and this would happen. You have to be prepared, and you have to be trained, and we try to do as much training as we can. Again, you can’t train for a real-life scenario. But hopefully their reactions are, you know, they’ve learned a lot through that training, and their reactions are appropriate.

Rob: You mentioned the use of force. In comparison with other developed nations, American law enforcement is lethal. I mean, shoot dead more people than there are days in the year every year. The flip side of that, 50,000 officers are assaulted every year, 50 are killed in the line of duty. Do you contribute that to the amount of guns in our country?

Citty: I think you have to almost, because you look at some of the differences, and one of the major differences is the availability of firearms in this country. I think the big difference, you have to look at it, I mean, the big difference in the deaths as results of firearms or deaths at all compared to other countries is the availability of firearms in this country.

Rob: Do you feel different about conceal carry versus open carry?

Citty: I really do. The only reason I feel differently about is that if somebody carries it openly, people around them don’t know who that person is. They don’t know what state of mind that person is. They don’t know what state of intoxication that person may be in. So it makes people afraid. Just having the open carry makes people afraid. I don’t think that’s the way our society should be. Concealed carry, you know, I haven’t been against that but you have to be somewhat concerned because a lot of the checks and balances aren’t there to make sure that the right person is allowed to carry that firearm. I mean, they go through a process, but it’s not a very, very strong vetted process. You really can’t train somebody when and how to use that firearm. I mean, we go through extensive training with police officers, and in many cases, you know, we still don’t react perfectly in those types of situations. So, I think, you know, in some ways it puts a lot of people at risk. Overall, I’m not, I don’t oppose the concealed. I really don’t see a reason for the open carry at all. If I was a bad person out here, I’d want to know who was carrying the firearm, I’d love open carry. So, and I just don’t think, I just don’t think that that’s a good practice nor a really a good environment for a community like ours.

Rob: Now, a little later in our show, we will look at just some of what it takes to go into law enforcement, and we’ll meet some young people putting their heart and soul into it. But when we return, I ask the chief about the role community policing plays in dispelling the growing racial tension around the country.

 

Female Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon” with Rob McClendon – weekly insight into your changing world.

 

Rob McClendon: Well, attitudes towards law enforcement often come down to something as simple as the color of your skin. In a national poll, 59 percent of white Americans report having confidence in the police, but only 37 percent of black Americans do. It’s a distrust that we’ve seen play out on the streets in city after city when police actions lead to a powder keg of racial tensions. I asked Chief Bill Citty how OKC-PD has avoided similar turmoil and his answer comes down to just two words: community relations.

Bill Citty: Well, you know, I like to think that one of the main differences is the fact that we just really communicate well. The minority community, city government, the police department, really have an open line of communication throughout the year. We don’t, you know, you don’t wait for something bad to happen. I hope that the minority community feels like, in general, that they’re, you know, that they’re treated more fairly by our department than I think you’ve seen in some places across the country. I think there’s a lot of agencies that have struggled. You know, the one thing that is very difficult is that it doesn’t matter who the agency is or what the event is, law enforcement ends up getting stereotyped across the country. If you take Ferguson for instance, you know, you shouldn’t really compare Ferguson to a major city police department like Oklahoma City. Training’s different. The people we hire are different, much more professional. There were a lot of problems and issues in Ferguson. It’s a much smaller community, less professional obviously. So it’s, you know, it’s very, very difficult, although that’s, that’s what’s happened. There’s a lot of things that even discuss officers when we see the videos and how bad that was and how wrong it was and how the officer reacted poorly in some of those cases, not all of ‘em, but in some of those cases. And all of law enforcement gets lumped into that as not being trained well or not, not dealing with the African-American community as well. So, you know, it affects us here. What I try to tell people is that the gap between, the relationship gap between minority community and, like, law enforcement’s always been fairly large. I mean, when I came down here 38 years ago, there was some distrust. I mean, it was, it was historical. It was something that, you know, had growed up, had gone from generation to generation. If you look back into the 50s and 60s and even further back, you know, there was a tremendous amount of discrimination in the way the minority communities were treated. And so, you know, that, those are individuals that are still with us today. Those are individuals that lived that and breathed that and have passed some of that down, and that’s hard to overcome. It takes, you have to work at it very, very hard, and I think we do here. I think we have a very strong minority community and that’s willing to communicate about the issues and a government here that’s really willing to listen and try to make changes for the better. So it’s really about communication. It’s really about developing those relationships, trying to have ‘em. It doesn’t, it’s not perfect, we still have those tensions here. We still have some of the distrust here. It still makes it hard for us to recruit African-Americans because of that distrust. But I think overall, it is better here.

Rob: So how do you break the cycle?

Citty: Well, you have to be pretty vigilant. I mean, you have to really, you have to get to know each other. You have to be face to face in an environment other than arrest situations. You don’t build relationships getting, taking one call after another in situations that are, are volatile, situations where we may have to arrest somebody. You have to, you have to have those discussions with each other, get to know each other constantly. You have to talk about issues. You have to, you have to show them and show other minority communities as to why you do things. You know, officers in many cases make an arrest, they don’t have time or don’t take the time to communicate well with individuals they’re having to deal with. You have to take some time to do that. You have to take time to sit down and say this is, this is what we’re up against. This is how we could use your help. This is why we do things. And at the same time, we have to listen to what their concerns are and what their feelings are because those are very real, and we have to try to respond to those. And we have to be responsible. If there’s changes that need to be made, then the police agency has to be willing to make it.

Rob: So let’s talk about the psychology of just what it takes to be an officer. What are you looking for in an applicant?

Citty: Well, we’re mainly looking for somebody that’s honest, somebody that can communicate. You know, we don’t require, Oklahoma City doesn’t require a college degree. We require education and college degree if you want to be a supervisor or mid-management. By the time you get mid-management, you have to have a bachelor’s degree. But we don’t on entry. We’re looking for primary character, you know, those types of things and honesty and are they able to communicate. You don’t have to have an education necessarily to be able to communicate very well. The police department will provide you with education, will help you pay for that education. So we’re just looking, we’re looking for good, good, honest, you know, people that really are interested in a profession and feel like they communicate well with a very diverse group of people. Because Oklahoma City, all communities are becoming a lot more diverse, and the department needs to be able to work within that community.

Rob: Yet law enforcement remains largely white and male. Females make up between 4 and 5 percent of the department, while Hispanics and African Americans, they each make up independently about 8 percent of the state’s largest law enforcement department. Now, when we return, we look at work underway to change that.

 

Female Announcer: “Horizon” is at your fingertips – join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to catch the segments you may have missed and our latest new content as it happens.

 

Rob McClendon: Well, it’s no secret that law enforcement has been under great scrutiny as of late, yet it is a career option that many young people want to pursue. That’s why CareerTech offers 12 different law enforcement programs around the state. As our Blane Singletary reports, these cadet programs give the students a head start into law enforcement.

Blane Singletary: The mile and a half run has just begun at the Oklahoma City Sheriff Office’s Physical Fitness Challenge. These young have come to hone their skills and engage in some healthy competition.

Johnnie Laudermilk: The students were wondering why they were always working out and we were encouraging them to continue working out.

Blane: That’s Johnnie Laudermilk, an instructor at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. He helped start the fitness challenge several years ago. He says physical fitness is important because that’s what agencies will be looking for when it comes time for these cadets to apply.

Laudermilk: So we found that it not only motivated them to work out, but it also gave us an opportunity to mix law enforcement with our cadet classes to improve the education that we’re providing for these students.

Blane: These cadets have to be at the top of their game, physically, mentally and so much more. And yet, these teens and young adults have chosen to commit themselves to this difficult profession.

Andrea Wood: Ever since I’ve been a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be a police officer. I’m fascinated with the idea of serving and protecting in whatever way I can, and it’s a great opportunity.

Blane: Andrea Wood is a senior in Metro Tech’s pre-law enforcement program.

Wood: My hope is to go to college, get a degree and then come back and apply for Oklahoma City.

Blane: And every one of these cadets, from 12 different programs at tech centers across the state, has a different reason for stepping up to the challenge. Amanda English is the head instructor for the program at Metro Tech.

Amanda English: They want to change their own life. They want to do something different. They want to be a part of something like law enforcement that’s a brotherhood. And the more they get involved in it, the more the go back to their home high school and they talk with all kinds of enthusiasm. And it just pays itself forward.

Blane: English, with nearly two decades of law enforcement experience herself, says the program at Metro Tech is especially important for this reason. Many inner city police departments around the country don’t have much inner city representation. And Metro Tech, located in northwest Oklahoma City, serves many students who live in this poorer, inner city area.

English: A lot of them come from really rough neighborhoods. They come from neighborhoods where it’s easier to do the wrong thing than it is to the right thing. And there is the drive in them. I think it’s inherent in who they are, and it’s a matter of connecting them with the right way and the right path and the right people to gain that success.

Blane: While this class meets in a classroom, very little of their time is spent here in a textbook. Aside from the strenuous physical training, these students work on discipline as well as communication, interview skills and connecting with the community they could one day serve.

English: I would say about 95 percent of police work is relationships and communication. Part of connecting them with the community is they’re a direct reflection. They’re raised in that kind of chaos and so they’re able to relate directly with the community more so than somebody who isn’t.

Blane: Along with connecting with the community, they also connect with officers and professionals in the law enforcement field. The class is partnered with the Oklahoma City Police Department, and Sgt. Tomas Daughtery is embedded in their class.

Tomas Daughtery: I got the best job on the department. What I get to do is I get to come out here and spend time with these students and implement all our OCPD standards. We put a lot of our standards much like our police academy standards are. You know, they do a lot of regiment stuff. They understand what to expect later on.

Blane: And in turn, the students gain a new perspective about their neighborhood policemen that they can’t get anywhere else. Again, Andrea Wood.

Wood: What I wasn’t really expecting was, I think after getting to know all the officers, it was just seeing such a human side of them, you know, which is something most of the community doesn’t always get to see. They come in with their uniforms on all shined up, and you feel that little sinking. But then like, you know, he’ll just tell you a story about all the work, you know, they’re always connecting with the community, and you just see that they’re people.

Blane: And the biggest thing that they gain is a community of their own. Over time, these cadets band together and form their own unit. They actively encourage each other to conquer the task at hand.

Wood: After you’ve been on the ground doing pushups with them or running around just motivating each other, you really feel like a family, and it’s a bond you can’t break.

Blane: It’s that bond that will carry them through even the toughest challenges law enforcement presents. And Amanda English says times have never been tougher.

English: At the end of the day, I’m absolutely proud of each one of these students for making a decision like this when it’s not popular. It’s not any secret that being in law enforcement right now is not a popular choice. So it’s actually helped me grow. I’ve learned more from a group of high school students probably than they’ve ever learned from me.

Blane: It’s true grit that got all of these cadets from all over the state to this point. And Sgt. Daughtery says it’s that same determination that will continue to push them ahead.

Daughtery: Again, this is their opportunity, this is their dream, and we’re simply here to kind of help out any way we can. We hope that they’ll one day be able to wear this uniform.

Rob: Now, if you’d like to see some of the cool things these students get to do, I do have some links to past stories that show the hands-on skills being taught in CareerTech classrooms around the state. Just head over to okhorizon.com and look under our value added section.

 

Female Announcer: Want to see more stories like this? All our segments are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV.

 

Rob McClendon: In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of mass shootings, many that can be directly traced to the convergence of guns and the mentally ill. As we conclude our conversation, OKC Police Chief Bill Citty talks about some of the new challenges that law enforcement face.

Rob: We have a tremendous amount of untreated mental illness here in the state. How much of an impact does it have on your department?

Bill Citty: Well, the impact is becoming greater and greater. Mental health, our mental health calls has probably more than doubled, you know, just over a three- to five-year period. There’s a high percent of persons using drugs that are self-medicating as a result of mental health issues. So, you know, that’s the kind, those are the kind of things that officers are called to – people in crisis, whether it’s a mental health crisis, a person on drugs or a combination of the two and tough, tough situations for officers to handle. You know, the one thing I think that’s misunderstood about that though is that in most of those cases, those individuals aren’t violent. You know, it’s basically they’re, they just are out of control, not really a threat to themselves or anybody else, but it’s a problem. It’s something a parent can’t deal with or somebody just, you know, who can’t function well, but aren’t really violent. There are some that are that we have to deal with, but a very small portion of those. So it has a huge impact on this police department, on the city and the community as a whole of not dealing with it.

Rob: When you started out in law enforcement, did you ever envision that you would have to focus on everything from shooters in schools to domestic terrorism?

Citty: Yeah, if I knew over the years what I had to deal with, I might have taken a different road in some ways because it would be overwhelming to you because it does change. The issues become, in many ways, harder to deal with. Now, you don’t really think about, you don’t really think that you’re gonna have and start dealing with shooters that do mass killings with children. I mean, that’s, growing up and even joining the police department, you know, when Sirloin Stockade happened, and we lost a number of employees, it was shocking because you just didn’t see that. And so, for somebody to go into a school and for no reason and take the lives of innocent kids is, you know, just unfathomable. So, no, you can’t, I really never anticipated that in law enforcement, you know. So it’s, but it’s changed, and we have to be prepared to change with it.

Rob: Now, I do have much more from Chief Citty streaming on our website. There he talks about the growth of paramilitary style policing in some departments and why it has both pros and cons. And we’ll also talk about how changes in attitudes about marijuana have put pressures on recruitment and how his department is trying to keep up with the times. To see those, just head over to okhorizon.com and click on our value added section.

 

Rob McClendon: From the food we eat to the water we drink, agriculture impacts all our lives. Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we meet some Oklahoma agriculturalists honored for a lifetime of achievement. Agriculture and you, on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

 

Rob McClendon: Thanks for including us as a part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week.