Oklahoma Police Officer Reassigned After Refusing To Attend Islamic Society Event

Friday, February 25th 2011, 12:26 am
By: News 9

Rusty Surrette, News 9

TULSA, Oklahoma -- An Oklahoma police officer said his religion is why he refused to obey his boss when he was ordered to attend the Islamic Society's law enforcement appreciation day next month in Tulsa.

Captain Paul Fields with the Tulsa Police Department said when he said no to the event, he was reassigned. He's now suing the department.

The Islamic Society said the event -- featuring food, tours and a prayer service -- was its way of saying thank you to Tulsa police. Captain Fields' boss told him attendance was mandatory, but Fields refused to go.

"We want to make it very clear. It's not related, just because it's a mosque, hasn't anything to do with his ultimate decision," said Fields' attorney, Scott Wood. "It has to do with the intersection of religious rights of an individual to not associate with other people if they choose not to."

Tulsa police said assigning officers to community outreach programs is a matter of routine. For this event, Deputy Chief Daryl Webster sent out an internal memo, telling each patrol division to send a total of six officers and three supervisors.

But Captain Fields believed that order was illegal and would not follow it, because he didn't believe the event as described, was directly related to his job as a police officer.

"We tried to anticipate these concerns by stating on the invitation what time the prayer service begins and ends so they could come observe if they wanted. Or if they wanted nothing to do with the religious portion, they could come eat, visit and leave at their leisure," Sheryl Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Tulsa said.

The captain has filed a federal suit, but is only seeking one dollar in damages.