A police commander in Oklahoma is “under review” after he said that officers are shooting African Americans “less than we probably ought to be” during a local radio interview.
The Tulsa Police Department denounced the comments made by Major Travis Yates, who is white, and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum called Yates’ comments “dumb” and demanded an apology in a Facebook statement.
“Chief Wendell Franklin and the Tulsa Police Department want to make it very clear we do not endorse, condone or support Yates’ comments made on the show,” the department said in a Facebook post on Wednesday, adding “This matter has been referred to our Internal Affairs Unit.”
“He does not speak for my administration, for the Tulsa Police Department, or the City of Tulsa,” Bynum said.
Yates made his comments during a segment called “Behind the Blue Line” on The Pat Campbell Show, which airs on local AM radio station KFAQ. He also contended that systemic racism in policing “just doesn’t exist.”
During the interview, Yates said advocates against police brutality have “made regular Americans believe that cops are just hunting blacks down in the street and killing them. And it’s completely the opposite of what the research says and what the data says.”
“All the research said — including Roland Fryer, an African American Harvard professor, Heather MacDonald and the National Academy of Sciences — all of their research says we’re shooting African Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed,” Yates said.
Yates also referenced The Washington Post’s real-time database, which has tracked fatal shootings by police officers since 2015, and said the data showed that a lesser percentage of police shootings have involved unarmed black Americans than unarmed white Americans.
While the data shows that white people make up half of the shootings by police, black Americans are killed by police at a disproportionate rate, The Washington Post reported. According to the latest census data, white Americans make up 76.5% of the U.S. population, while black Americans make up 13.4%.
That means black people are 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white people, The Post reported.
In an interview with Tulsa’s ABC affiliate on Wednesday, Yates said he was referencing research and not sharing his opinion.
When asked if he believed black Americans weren’t being shot enough, Yates responded, “That is absolutely nuts. I’m amazed that anybody would even ponder that. That’s crazy. I was citing data, that said they’re underrepresented in that data. And so, I don’t want anybody to be shot. Nobody does, but the data that most people are believing, there is alternative data out there and that’s the data I was citing.”
He told the TV station he wouldn’t apologize “because what I said was accurate based on the data.”
Yates’ comments come amid ongoing nationwide demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day.
Lt. Marcus Harper, also president of Tulsa’s Black Officers Coalition, expressed concern with Yates’ comments, especially given his position “of power” in the agency.
“His attitude is going to go downhill to that young, brand-new officer or that officer in field training right now,” Harper said at a Wednesday press conference.
Tulsa police are also facing questions about another recent incident.
The department this week released body-camera video footage of two officers arresting two black teens for jaywalking. The videos show the officers aggressively tackling one of the boys to the ground while the other boy asks: “Why are you putting your hands on him?”
The nearly 20-minute videos show an officer remaining on top of the teenager who lied on his stomach even after being handcuffed.
“Get off me! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” the teen shouted.
“You can breathe just fine,” the officer replied. “You’re fine.”
Contributing: The Associated Press