Chief rejects notion that police should 'dominate the streets'
Oklahoma City police Chief Wade Gourley says the notion of dominating the streets is a losing strategy for law enforcement.
"If we did that we would have no relationship with the community and you wouldn't be able to solve any crime," Gourley said in an interview Friday.
President Donald Trump this week urged authorities to "dominate the streets" as unrest swelled nationwide over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, where an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
"We are not the police in this community, as weird as that sounds," Gourley said. "It's the citizens. They're the ones that call us when they see an issue.
"A civil society — that's what keeps society the way it is," he said. "It's not a police department going out there and dominating. That's not what we are."
Coming off several days of protests, Gourley said he would not submit his resignation as sought by Black Lives Matter OKC, which earlier this week demanded that he step down, then backed away.
But the chief said he was open to apologizing for the actions of officers who responded to protests with tear gas and arrests, if reviews determine they acted improperly.
A month shy of the one-year anniversary of his appointment as chief, the 31-year Oklahoma City Police Department veteran said the department already has made quite a few changes and, "I would like the opportunity to do more and improve more."
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As chief, he said, "you have a short window, a short amount of time to do as much as you can. I want to set this organization up to be even better than when I got it."
Gourley said he and the Rev. Sheri Dickerson, Black Lives Matter OKC's lead organizer, have met several times during his tenure as deputy chief and now as chief.
"She knows me," he said. "That's not a door that I need to open. It's open. Maybe I need to walk through it instead of her."
Black Lives Matter OKC's demands included apologies for police response to protests.
"If there's something there that we did wrong, I would have no problem doing that," Gourley said. "I haven't seen anything so far that I need to apologize for, but that doesn't mean, once we review that, there may not be something there."
Gourley made a five-minute video this week as he walked outside near his office and said he hoped those watching his video would take away from it that no police officer could watch the viral video of Floyd's death and not be upset by it.
"It hurts our profession, it hurts the community, it hurts that trust," he said. "I feel like every time we're building that up, we're making some good strides, something like that happens and it just knocks us back down."
In conversations with his officers, Gourley said, nobody is justifying police officers' actions in Minneapolis, "Nobody's saying, 'Well I could see how that would happen.'
"They're all shocked that someone that's sworn to uphold not only the law but that community trust could do that."
Gourley ended his video by stating, "Black lives matter."
"To the people that are involved in that organization, it's not a saying, it's not a title of their group," he said Friday.
"It means something," Gourley said. "In their minds and what they've seen throughout history, they believe that police don't take black lives into the same — they don't hold them to the same level as others.
"To them, that's real. So I want them to know as a police officer and as a culture in our organization we do believe black lives matter.
"We want to institute policies and develop trust and things in the black community that are helpful and not hurtful," he said. "I think it was very important that I say that. It wasn't something that was difficult."