City Leaders Reflect On Bill Citty's Career

Thursday, January 24th 2019, 7:23 pm
By: Alex Cameron

When Bill Citty retires from the Oklahoma City Police Department in May, it will end the longest tenure of the chief's position in the department's 129-year history. 

Chief Citty's retirement announcement comes 15 years and three months since he took the job of chief, and more than 41 years since he first joined the force in 1977.

A press release explains that "Chief Citty worked throughout the Police Department including Patrol, Narcotics, Homicide, Campus Resource, Tactical Unit, and the Public Information Office." 

Veteran members of the OKC media will remember that, in fact, Citty was the department's PIO at the time of the Murrah federal building bombing in 1995. He was then promoted to Deputy Chief over the Administration Bureau before being selected, in 2003, to fill the shoes of retiring chief M.T. Berry.

"I had three priorities," explained then-City Manager Jim Couch at a news conference to announce Citty's selection, "integrity, integrity, and integrity...Bill Citty meets that test with flying colors."

Chief Berry was just as upbeat about the choice of his successor.

"He's been my sounding board," Berry told the reporters gathered in the Council chamber, "he's been someone who's kept me level whenever I got a little excited."

Citty said that was excited to get the job, although he admitted that when he first joined the department, he saw it as temporary -- a paycheck to get him back to school.

"But, when I came down here and saw the professionalism, the type of people that they had," Citty explained, "I never left."

In his 15-plus years at the helm, Citty has helped bring the police department fully into the 21st Century. He oversaw the construction and move into a new headquarters building and he pushed, ultimately successfully, to get body-cams on all officers.

He's had to deal with tough budget years and tough public relations cases, like the community's outrage over an officer-involved shooting in 2018 that result in the death of Magdiel Sanchez, a man who couldn't hear officer commands because he was deaf.

"These situations are dynamic, it's emotional" Citty stated in a news conference. "In this case you had a father police were looking for and a son who for whatever reason confronted the officers with a weapon."

Chief Citty didn't seek the spotlight, but he also didn't shy away from it when the situation demanded his presence.

Perhaps no case during his tenure put Citty and the department more in the spotlight than the 2014 arrest, and eventual conviction, of officer Daniel Holtzclaw for sexually assaulting numerous women while on duty.

Citty called it the worst case of abuse of authority he's ever seen.

"It taints all of us, and the officers know that and they take it very personally." Citty said, after Holtzclaw had been arrested, "and it angers us that one of our people -- one of our officers that people trust to keep them safe, is doing just the opposite."

Citty acknowledges that he's ruffled feathers over the years, that some of his positions have been unpopular, and that he hasn't always been right. But he says he's always done what he's thought was best for his officers.

On several occasions over the years, Chief Citty has advocated for stricter gun laws.

In 2011, when Officer Katie Lawson was ambushed and nearly killed by a 15-year-old who shot her multiple times with an AR-15, Citty spoke about the need to change the law to make it harder for criminals to get such weapons.

Last year, Citty spoke with News 9 about an increase in gun thefts, which he said was being fueled, in part, by laws that make it easy for people to buy as many guns as they want.

"It's part of the big problem of having too many guns on the street," Citty explained. "I mean, there's been a lot of studies that show the more firearms you have, the more firearms that are available out on the street, the higher the risk of homicides, assaults, and those types of things."

Bill Citty is a lifelong resident of Oklahoma City. He graduated in 1971 from Northwest Classen High School and has a B.S. from Oklahoma State University.

In a statement today, Citty said, “The Police Department has allowed me to engage a diverse and committed group of community leaders consisting of CEOs to neighborhood presidents, elected officials and other law enforcement agencies who want to make our community a safe place to live with a quality of life every person deserves. The women and men of the Police Department, sworn and non-sworn, have inspired me every day with their ability to be tough but also compassionate, calm during chaos and patient with people in crisis.”

Attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, D.C., Mayor David Holt told News 9 that Citty has done a great job:

"[He] has really kept our city together in many times when things could have broken apart and probably would have in other places."

Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher released this statement about Citty:

"Bill Citty is one of the most honorable, kind, and caring persons I have ever met. He is a visionary who has done countless things for the good of the city that unfortunately no one will ever know, because he will never mention it was he who did them. He is a gifted communicator and leader, and he has always done what was best for the city. His work for criminal justice reform and efforts to stop domestic abuse are unparalleled in this city. He is a great father, husband, and friend to many, and I firmly believe that the best is yet to come for him because he has many more chapters to write in what has been an incredible career. Bill Citty, thank you for your service."



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