By Johnny O’Mara, Crime Editor
Sunday, 26 February 2006
A call to Crime Stoppers put detectives on the path to arrest a man suspected of being a serial child rapist this week, but did Chief Dave Been want to disband the special task force created to end the crime spree or is Mayor Bill LaFortune using public safety concerns to disparage the honor of the Chief for political gain on the eve of his most difficult primary election?
The arrest of 36 year-old Gary Graham has brought a sigh of relief to parents throughout the Tulsa area. Graham is accused of being the serial child rapist that, for several years, has plagued the city as children were not safe from threat in their own homes with parents nearby.
In several cases the perpetrator would make entry into a home, abduct a child and sexually assault the child while the parents were in the next room.
In response to the rapes, the Tulsa Police Department established a task force to find the perpetrator. Now, in the wake of the dismissal of the Chief of Police, accusations are being made.
Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune is utilizing his office in calling public media to point a finger at Chief of Police Dave Been, saying that Been wanted to disband the task force before these heinous crimes where solved.
In response to this and other accusations against the Chief, the Tulsa Chapter of Fraternal Order of Police met to discuss the issues. They conducted a "Confidence Vote." It is the most powerful statement that rank and file officers can make in public.
In this special meeting with a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, the FOP voted unanimously to support Chief Been last Thursday night. "It’s the biggest turn out I’ve seen in fifteen years," said one member.
Chief Been was suspended by Mayor LaFortune in a surprising press conference last week [click here for press conference coverage] after LaFortune accused the Chief of having withheld a report that there were problems with the Tulsa SWAT team. Been denied withholding that report [click here for Chief Been’s response].
In this most recent allegation the Mayor said that Been wanted to disband the task force that was investigating the child rapes but Been says LaFortune is misstating the facts.
In an exclusive interview with Tulsa Today Been explained that the duration of Task Forces are governed by a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police and by a Consent Decree recently ordered by Federal Court. The Consent Decree and the FOP contract dictate that temporary assignments will last longer than the certain period of time that would be required for a job announcement be made.
"They had finished their 60 day temporary assignment, which is all that is allowed by the contract with the FOP, and would also be in contempt of the Consent Decree if they stayed longer, because the jobs were not advertised," Been said.
Darin Filak, President of the Tulsa Police FOP confirmed Been’s claim. "He went to Ryan Perkins (Chairman of the Board of Directors for the FOP), and expressed his concerns about the Task Force members being assigned to the task force for more than 60 days. He came to an agreement with the Union that if he made the task force voluntary he could keep it going."
Filak said that following that advise from the FOP, Been went to the task force officers and told them that the sixty day period was over and that each of them had the option of leaving the assignment or signing on for another sixty days.
"All but about two of them remained," Filak said.
Filak pointed out that Been had no choice but to bring up the issue. "It’s something that could have put him in contempt if he had just made the people on the task force keep working without giving them the option to leave."
Been told Tulsa Today that he first spoke to the Mayor and asked for approval to send the officers on the task force back to their regular assignments. Been said he received LaFortune’s approval and then started making plans to form a new task force to deal with the rapes and rash of armed robberies.
Been said after he received LaFortune’s approval to send the officers back to their regular duties he received an email from LaFortune that said he wanted the Task Force to remain active – an abrupt about face.
"After his face-to-face approval, [LaFortune] e-mailed me an order to maintain the existing task force. That e-mail mysteriously appeared in the [daily newspaper]. He says that I wanted to disband the task force and he ordered me not to. No mention of contractual obligations, no mention of the Consent Decree, just his orders," Been said.
In that published report, the Mayor’s Administrative Officer, Sam Roop is quoted saying that he could tell, by people’s body language, that everyone in the room was uncomfortable with what the chief was saying about the task force.
Reacting Been said, “I have no idea what Mr. Roop is referring to.”
The daily newspaper said the meeting focused on the serial rapist task force and asserted that Been had suggested that a task force approach was not the ideal way to approach this particular offender.
Been says he never thought of disbanding the task force. Instead, Been says his preferred option was to swap out personnel assigned to the task force.
Image“It is patently untrue that I was going to disband the task force. I was just going to rotate members out and new members in as per the FOP Contract and the Consent Decree. There was no dissention at the table of managers and Mayor LaFortune seemed to understand and agree completely. There was no discussion between or with other managers and or the City Attorney and I detected no body language issues,” Been said.
"I wanted to form a new task force with emphasis on both the serial rapist and armed robberies, which we did," said Been. “A task force was going to continue with dual emphasis on the serial rapist, which had struck since the Task Force was formed, and armed robberies, which were also out of control. It would just be new members from the department who had not been serving [on the task force] for [the last] 60 days.”
It is an open question how Mayor LaFortune, a former judge, and the daily newspaper which has provided extensive coverage of both FOP contract negotiations and the Consent Decree could misunderstand the administrative compliance those documents require.
The armed robbery/serial rapist task force Been formed hit pay dirt last week with the apprehension of two robbery suspects as well as the suspected serial rapist.
“Regardless, I am very proud of the catch,” Been said of the apprehensions.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 February 2006 )