Tulsa police major under review after controversial comments on 'shooting African-Americans'

Community leaders in Tulsa, Oklahoma, spoke out Wednesday against a white police major who said systemic racism does not exist in law enforcement and officers shoot black citizens “less than we probably ought to be” based on crime statistics.

Tulsa Police Department Maj. Travis Yates made the controversial remarks during an appearance earlier this week on “The Pat Campbell Show,” a local podcast. Yates was asked to weigh in on the state of law enforcement amid nationwide protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

While Yates said he was citing research from outside sources rather than his personal opinion, the comments drew immediate condemnation from local officials. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum disavowed Yates’ comments in a Facebook post and called for the major to apologize.

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“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,” Bynum said. “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.”

The Tulsa Police Department announced in a statement that it has referred Yates’ comments to its Internal Affairs division for an investigation.

“We want to make it clear the statements made by Yates are not a part of any curriculum or training provided by the Department,” the statement read. “Yates’ comments do not align with the mission, values or policies of the Tulsa Police Department.”

Yates’ comments were first reported by Public Radio Tulsa.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, seen here, disavowed the police major's comments.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, seen here, disavowed the police major's comments.

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During the interview, the Tulsa police major cited research from former Harvard University economist Roland Fryer, Heather Mac Donald of the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute and the National Academy of Sciences.

“All of their research says we are shooting African-Americans 24 percent less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed,” Yates said.

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Yates sought to clarify his remarks on the podcast in a statement Wednesday, arguing that media coverage “does not reflect my hypothetical discussion of statistics based on the research of others.”

“This is plainly false and factually inaccurate,” Yates said in the statement, according to Tulsa World. “And, to think that beyond a discussion of comparative statistics that I would suggest that the 'police should actually be shooting' anyone is simply outrageous.”