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Tulsa mayor apologizes for his 'dumb and overly-simplistic' comment on Terence Crutcher killing

Tulsa mayor apologizes for his 'dumb and overly-simplistic' comment on Terence Crutcher killing

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G.T. Bynum Tiffany Crutcher

Mayor G.T. Bynum (right) speaks to Tiffany Crutcher (left), Nat Wachowski-Estes (center) and others after a 2019 City Council meeting about police use of force. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World file

Mayor G.T. Bynum took to social media Wednesday morning to address a disastrous few days in local policing and race relations.

His remarks began with a public mea culpa for his comments on the national television show “CBS Sunday Morning” about the fatal police shooting of unarmed black Tulsan Terence Crutcher in September 2016.

“When your friends start calling you and repeatedly use the phrase, ‘I know your heart,’ it is a good indicator you’ve screwed up. I did an interview over the weekend that hurt a lot of good people and has caused a lot of my allies in our work to address racial disparity to question my real commitment,” Bynum wrote on Facebook.

“I would hope that my work during 8 years on the City Council and 4 years in the Mayor’s Office would speak louder than one dumb and overly-simplistic answer to a complex question, but I understand if it doesn’t.

“My greatest fear — as a husband, a dad, and as a mayor — is letting down the people who count on me. I’m sorry for letting people down in a critical moment.”

Bynum appeared on the television news magazine in a piece that recalled the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and traced Crutcher’s own family history that far back and through to the present day, as his sister Tiffany Crutcher works as a full-time advocate for police reform.

Bynum was introduced in the CBS piece as having taken office three months after Terence Crutcher’s shooting death at the hands of then-Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby, who is white.

The question posed to Bynum was: “A lot of people saw what happened to Terence Crutcher, and they said, ‘This wouldn’t have happened if he was white.’ Do you think that’s true?”

“No, I don’t,” Bynum replied, later indicating that he thought the drugs found in Crutcher’s system made him less able to follow police orders.

Bynum said, “It is more about the really insidious nature of drug utilization than it is about race, in my opinion.”

Bynum was also asked if he was satisfied with “how the case played out” when Shelby was tried for first-degree manslaughter but was acquitted. He said, “I think we have to have faith in that justice system.”

In his lengthy social media post on Wednesday, Bynum also condemned inflammatory remarks made this week by a Tulsa police major and vowed to personally work with the police chief to review the operations of the unit caught on camera Thursday tackling and handcuffing two black teens for jaywalking.

Here are Bynum’s remarks, in their entirety:

“At a time when I see so many men and women in the Tulsa Police Department working to the limits of endurance to do the right thing, this has been a hard week. This is a moment in our city when every word you say can work to hurt or to heal, and several of us are falling short. With no sleep and raw emotions, I’m going to just post what I’m thinking about this week.

“Let’s start with me. When your friends start calling you and repeatedly use the phrase “I know your heart”, it is a good indicator you’ve screwed up. I did an interview over the weekend that hurt a lot of good people and has caused a lot of my allies in our work to address racial disparity to question my real commitment. I would hope that my work during 8 years on the City Council and 4 years in the Mayor’s Office would speak louder than one dumb and overly-simplistic answer to a complex question, but I understand if it doesn’t. My greatest fear — as a husband, a dad, and as a mayor — is letting down the people who count on me. I’m sorry for letting people down in a critical moment. I sought this job because I wanted to make this a city of equal opportunity for all kids. I hope we can continue to work together for them.

“Speaking of dumb comments, I first met Travis Yates when I was on the City Council and he invited a group of us to see plans for the sports complex he wanted to build for kids in North Tulsa. I want to believe he didn’t intend to say what he did, but what he did say goes against everything we are trying to achieve in community policing. He does not speak for my administration, for the Tulsa Police Department, or the City of Tulsa. His comments are under review by the Chief’s Office. And if he didn’t mean to make the statement in the way it has been received, he owes Tulsans a clarification and an apology.

“Lastly, I want every kid in Tulsa to feel safe to walk down the street in their neighborhood. No Tulsa kid should have to fear being tackled and cuffed for walking down the street. I viewed that footage last night more as a parent than a mayor. I know the officers in that unit focus on removal of illegal guns from the streets, but the goal of that work should be that families feel safe in their neighborhood. This instance accomplished the opposite. This specific instance is under investigation, but I am also going to work with Chief Franklin to review the way that unit goes about its work in general. We can do better.

“We are imperfect people tasked with incredibly important work with small margins for error. We must always seek to do better. That’s why I welcome independent oversight and greater community involvement in our police work.

“I believe in my heart that the men and women of the Tulsa Police Department are courageous, heroic, and selfless. They have a once-in-a-generation leader in Chief Wendell Franklin. They want to be the best for the citizens they serve. They deserve an independent entity which can vouch for their good work, and point out where they need to improve. We all do.”

More to read at tulsaworld.com

Mayor condemns Tulsa police major's comments; state representative calls for his firing; police chief reviewing situation

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Andrea Eger

918-581-8470

andrea.eger@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @AndreaEger

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Staff Writer

I'm a projects reporter, examining key education topics and other local issues. Since joining the Tulsa World in 1999, I have been a three-time winner of Oklahoma’s top award for investigative reporting by an individual. Phone: 918-581-8470

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