By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
City of Sand Springs Police Chief Mike Carter is taking a proactive approach towards police-community relations in the face of nation-wide tensions.
With police actions continuing to fall under increased media and public scrutiny, Carter wants to learn from situations like the Ferguson, Missouri conflicts and avoid accusations of biased policing.
“While race has not played a significant factor in policing/judicial problems in the City of Sand Springs; unintentionally, economic disparity may play a significant role in unequal consequences of violations of the law by people in Sand Springs.”
Carter also made it clear that “if even one person feels that they were subject to racial bias by the SSPD, it is our responsibility to take steps to better that situation and take steps to make sure we alleviate that concern in the future.”
The mentally ill are another demographic addressed by Carter. “It is important to treat mental health issues as a medical care situation and to lessen the possibility of potential for violent conflict with the individual.”
Body cameras represent one area where Sand Springs is already well ahead of the curve. While movements like “Black Lives Matter” are demanding body cameras be implemented elsewhere, the SSPD has already been using body cameras for approximately eight years, according to Carter.
The Department is also working on increasing the amount of warnings that are given in relation to the total number of traffic stops.
According to Carter’s report, approximately one-third of Sand Springs officers have been trained in advanced mental health techniques through the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The remaining two-thirds of SSPD officers are expected to go through the training by the first quarter of 2017.
The Department is also working on training all officers in anti-bias policing. The training focuses on the belief that all people have some implicit bias, and that officers should seek to understand and control their bias so that it won’t be a factor in their policing decisions.
Last year, all SSPD officers attended Use of Force training that not only covered shoot-don’t-shoot situations, but also helped coach officers through issuing verbal commands that are clear and won’t cause confusion or put the officer at risk. The Department will continue to put officers through verbal training sessions that focus on de-escalation and officer approachability.
One example of the SSPD’s restraint in use of force is an incident in the Spoon Drug parking lot two weeks ago.
On Friday, July 18th, officers responded to a call about an armed suspect in the 3800 block of Highway 97. That suspect refused to comply with officers’ orders and was tackled to the ground after the responding officer saw he wasn’t holding a weapon.
The Department plans on starting a program in the near-future called “Talk and Pop with a Cop” that will allow the public to speak with officers and other community leaders about the City.
The Department plans to continue issuing fewer and less-costly citations so as to encourage citizens to appear in court and result in less warrants and less conflicts between officers and citizens. The Department will also raise the penalties for failure to appear in court to further incentivize citizens to appear. Alternatives to fines and jail times are being explored such as community service in local festivals.