After a judge ruled the Norman City Council illegally cut a portion of the proposed budget increase for the city police department, the Norman Collective for Racial Justice defended the vote’s legitimacy and criticized the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter.
In a press release, NC4RJ wrote it was “disappointed” by the ruling, accusing Carter County Assistant District Judge Thomas Baldwin of allowing his “political sympathies for police (to overshadow) his fidelity to the rule of law.”
NC4RJ noted it “remains to be seen” if the ruling will be upheld in a higher court, as Norman city officials plan to file an appeal of the decision Monday.
According to the release, NC4RJ members felt the city’s contract with the FOP was the “primary obstacle to transparency and accountability for NPD” after a June 9 meeting with city officials including mayor Breea Clark and NPD Chief Kevin Foster.
“Now, in light of recent events, it is clear that the FOP is a major obstacle to the functioning of our local democracy as well,” NC4RJ wrote in the release.
In the release, NC4RJ criticized Norman FOP Lodge No. 122 President Robert Wasoski for stating the council’s June 16 vote “violated the will of Norman voters” while being politically inactive.
“Wasoski admitted in an Oct. 7 interview that he had not voted in 10 years, and had been ‘very much disinterested’ in voting,” NC4RJ wrote in the release.
NC4RJ further decried Wasoski’s statement on local politics by highlighting in the last municipal election, the lodge endorsed only a single candidate: former Ward 6 City Councilmember Bill Scanlon, who lost his office in the June 30 runoff election.
“The evidence is clear that the June 16 budget vote did not, in fact, violate the will of the voters of Norman,” NC4RJ wrote in the release. “However, the vote does go against the personal financial interest of Wasoski and others like him, who are paid handsomely by the city to conduct expensive trainings for new police officers. But our municipal budget should not exist to serve the financial interests of a privileged few.”
NC4RJ wrote in the release the city government should be focusing its full efforts in assisting Norman residents still in need after the late-October ice storm that struck central Oklahoma — which the legal challenges of the council vote continue to distract their attention from.
“Norman residents will not forget that in a time of great suffering, the FOP chose to attack our local democracy out of a sense of entitlement to our city funds,” NC4RJ wrote in the release, “instead of respecting the rights of our residents to make their voices heard by their elected officials.”
NC4RJ reiterated its demands in the release — “Defund Norman PD. Demilitarize Norman PD. Transparency and accountability” — and wrote it will continue its work to address municipal issues through other means than increased policing.
“If the residents of our city believe we can solve social problems without resorting to the coercive violence of policing, then our municipal budget needs to invest in better tools than guns and handcuffs,” NC4RJ wrote. “We need public safety solutions that address the root causes of social problems, not just their symptoms.”
Editor's note: This article was updated at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 7 to include the article in which Wasoski describes his recent voting experience.