After Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby was found not guilty in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, activists gathered Sunday outside the Oklahoma City Police Department to encourage better relationships between officers and minority communities.
When the jury announced the verdict, local organizations felt they had to take action to set an example for other cities, and they said officers have been responsive to their cause.
Dozens showed up to the police accountability protest to demand understanding and better training among officers.
“In Oklahoma, we know that we are a police people and that’s good, but I need you all to be prepared because it is going to take some assertion on your part,” shouted Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, executive director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma.
The protesters said they realize the problem goes deeper than split-second decisions in the field.
“When you’re talking about the rates of domestic violence, when you’re thinking about the rates of the mentally ill who don’t have access to treatment, the addiction problems that we’re having, the poverty levels, all of these things add up to create an unhealthy society,” co-founder of the Ending Violence Everywhere Coalition and protest organizer Sara Bana said.
Rally organizers have already started working with local police to come up with solutions. Many of the options require funding, however, like mental health training and testing for officers, as well as launching an automatic independent investigation after every officer-involved shooting. They also want “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” to be implemented as department policy, along with using lethal force as a last resort.
They say these steps are critical to rebuilding trust in minority communities, because even though Oklahomans did not riot in the streets after the Shelby verdict, they are still angry.
“The absence of violence or an uprising isn’t an indication that things are peaceful,” said Dickerson. “They are not. We’re just trying to make sure that our actions are actually going to help change the atmosphere, the environment.”
As the discussions with police continue, activists also hope to educate their fellow citizens about the law and their rights in uncertain encounters. They believe that is another important step in the right direction.
“Although we are not at justice yet, we are treading that way and change is a process,” said Bana. “It takes time.”
The demonstrators plan to take their list of demands to the Tulsa Police Department next.