Regarding police pay in Tulsa

Monday, 06 July 2009
I have a unique view on the public safety, city council feud over budgets.  I spent 30 years with the Tulsa Police Department, but I would hardly describe myself as an automatic defender of any Fraternal Order of Police position.

Let me start with disclaimers:  there are good, industrious people at all levels of the Tulsa Police Department.  I think anyone who serves on the city council does so to help the city and make it a better place.

The police department has problems.  It has often been badly managed and poorly led.  With a few exceptions, management at the police station has zero imagination.  A new generation of police officers –actually several new generations—feel that they are entitled to extra benefits without actually performing the job and without any empathy for citizens.

I could write an entire article on what is wrong with the Tulsa Police Department.  BUT, try going a month without that beat officer you seldom see and you will understand the meaning of anarchy without looking it up in the dictionary.

The Fraternal Order of Police have been trying to use a survey of cities to stop a decade long slide in Tulsa Police pay.  In 2004, a Tulsa World article detailed how Tulsa was dead last in police pay compared to cities such as Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Omaha and Colorado Springs.  It’s not a comparison with Los Angeles and New York.  They are Midwest cities that attract the same candidates as Tulsa.

The City of Tulsa has consistently maintained that issues such as cost of living should be factored in.  The city has adamantly refused to commit to using the survey of cities to set police pay.

Councilor Martinson has recently said:

Mr. Evans and the FOP consistently and conveniently refer to the “universe of comparable cities” as the benchmark for determining compensation.  For years, this approach has enabled the FOP in Tulsa and the unions in the other participating cities to leverage off each other to increase compensation for their members. Mr. Evans refers to this comparison as a tactic and indeed, it is just that, a tactic to influence compensation levels for HIS union members to the detriment of all other city employees and the public.

Councilor Martinson may understand finance but he needs a history lesson and a dose of reality.  Tulsa has never been at the top of the survey of cities pay.  Tulsa has never been in the middle of the survey of cities pay.  Guess where Tulsa ranks?  The City of Tulsa has never granted a raise because Tulsa was too low in the survey.  I fail to see how the FOP leveraged this survey of cities into increased compensation?

On the other hand, comparable city pay has been used repeatedly by the City of Tulsa to justify pay for elected officials:

In February of 1999 the City Council considered raises for the mayor, auditor and council.  Mayor Susan Savage suggested that the city authorize an independent committee….to research whether raises are warranted based on a comparison with other communities.

In June of 2001, another article revealed that a 30 to 35 percent pay increase for elected officials could be justified based on a survey of cities.  The city council was horrified that Tulsa’s mayoral pay ranked dead last in the survey.  There was no mention of adjusting those figures for cost of living.

Just in case you think this is all ancient history, a Tulsa World article in June of 2008 details how Tulsa’s mayoral pay was dead last in a survey of cities.  Council pay was third from the bottom.  One councilor cautioned that raises should be limited to 33 percent instead of raising salaries in one fell swoop.  That is one big swoop.

I think I only saw a double digit raise once in my career.

Every time management pay or the pay of elected city officials is discussed, the good old survey of cities is trotted out to justify pay.  It’s a lot easier to pay a handful of people what they are worth than it is to pay 800 people what they are worth.

If Tulsa is to survive, much less prosper, it will take a more intelligent approach than council members accusing the police of using tactics that have, in fact, been used repeatedly by the council.

A good place to start cutting salaries might be those elected officials.  After all, despite all those last place finishes in surveys, we have never had a shortage of candidates for public office.

Postscript from the editor:

To read the article by Councilor Bill Martinson, click here.

By the way, Tulsa police have made a national website. You can view it here:

Tulsa Police also have an official facebook page. You can access it here:

You can also check out one of their latest utube videos here:

Last Updated ( Friday, 10 July 2009 )