Chief Been Responsible

By David Arnett    
Sunday, 26 March 2006
Mayor Bill LaFortune was right, the Tulsa Police Department (TPD) is in shambles and suspended-Chief Dave Been is responsible.  That report delivered to Mayor LaFortune Friday by independent investigator Frank Hagedorn, a respected Tulsa attorney documents Chief Been’s actions with respect to Tulsa SWAT [Special Weapons and Tactics] team operations that endangered the public safety and his failure to promptly deliver a National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) report to the mayor which critically reviewed SWAT operations.

Essentially, Chief Been failed to responsibility lead TPD and hid revelation of that failure from his superiors, both the mayor and, ultimately, the people of Tulsa.

Mayor LaFortune said, “Mr. Hagedorn is a highly respected investigator and I greatly appreciate the last few weeks of interviews and research he has completed. I intend to review the entire report and discuss it personally with Chief Been before I announce any further action."

Tulsa Today has spoken with a multitude of TPD officers recently and while they are forbidden to speak on the record, those interviews support allegations of deep divisions between personalities and professional perspectives.

All public and private institutions fight “mission drift” – the tendency to lose sight of key goals and objectives. All organizations must continually strive to keep the “professional challenge” external. Failure is when this daily challenge of work becomes internal, thereby driving all to become internally obsessed as the workplace becomes a Peyton Place of Machiavellian intrigue – thus a huge leadership failure.

Shortly after Chief Been was suspended, he talked with Tulsa Today Crime Editor Johnny O’Mara and asserted that “[LaFortune] was totally disconnected from the department.”  However, Mayor LaFortune appointed Chief Been after a national search early in his term and part of the Police Chief’s duty is to keep his boss connected.

Some insiders report that Chief Been had been attempting to cover-up his leadership failures by becoming increasing political in support of critics of the current administration.

The NTOA report concluded in part, “There is disunity, tension and disagreement within the Tulsa Police Department family that is unacceptable and counter to the best interest and safety of the people of Tulsa and Department personnel.  This situation has existed for several years and is growing, not diminishing.”

In a press conference February 20 announcing Chief Been’s suspension, Mayor LaFortune said, “Public safety is my number one priority.  I will not stand for anything less than a total commitment to the safety of our citizens.  I am outraged that a report of this nature would be withheld from me.  Preliminary information reveals that Chief Been even attempted to withhold the report from leadership in his own department, including at least two of his deputy chiefs.”

But Chief Been in the Tulsa Today interview said his concern is not really with the report or the Mayor’s allegations that the report was kept from him – his concern is for the effect all of is having on the officers of the department.  “These men and women are wonderful, brave people and now they’re ducking and hiding for cover,” he said.

Yes, every Tulsan of honest intent supports the wonderful brave TPD officers.  No profession outside law enforcement and the military risks so much in defense and preservation of the American people.  Tulsans respect TPD and Tulsa County Juries virtually always accept an officer’s testimony without question.

However, there are reports of misuse of authority and selective enforcement usually by young police rookies.  Further, there is a growing public understanding of the dynamics at work between the city bureaucracy, union, and those elected – and the use the union makes of media to push it’s bargaining positions.

Officers have told Tulsa Today that Tulsa is a safe city except for those actively engaged in crime.  Some report that the vast majority of violence in Tulsa is conducted between three extended families of professional criminals.

Hagedorn noted that when the NTOA report was discovered in Chief Been’s possession and it was requested by the mayor’s chief of staff, “Chief Been said he didn’t know about that because it contained sensitive information that he didn’t want to get out.”

Indeed, the successful daily operation of TPD, the safety of officers on the line, and the safety of Tulsa civilians and their families are extremely sensitive.  It is critically important for our top local elected official and functional authority over all local police activity – Mayor Bill LaFortune – to be promptly and well-informed.

In closing remarks Hagedorn said, “I will tell you the condition of the Police Department needs help and guidance.”

To read Tulsa Today coverage of the Mayor’s suspension of Chief Been click here.  To read Chief Been’s response click here.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 March 2006 )