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Oklahoma City Police Chief, Councilman Address Race, Policing Issues In Panel Discussion

(L-R): Oklahoma Watch executive editor David Fritze, Oklahoma City Ward 7 councilman John Pettis, Jr., and Oklahoma City police chief Bill Citty during Tuesday night's forum at Kamp's 1910 Café.
Patrick Roberts
(L-R): Oklahoma Watch executive editor David Fritze, Oklahoma City Ward 7 councilman John Pettis, Jr., and Oklahoma City police chief Bill Citty during Tuesday night's forum at Kamp's 1910 Café."

Listen to the entire August 25, 2015 panel discussion hosted by Oklahoma Watch.

Oklahoma City residents crowded into a café in Midtown last month to discuss police and minority communities.

The event hosted by Oklahoma Watch raised questions about diversity within the police force.

Oklahoma City Ward 7 councilman John Pettis, Jr. spoke to the crowd about everything from the nationwide spike in police shootings to the racial makeup of the city’s police force, where the number of black officers stands at roughly 6 percent. Pettis voiced concerns that number would drop even lower in coming years as minority officers begin to retire.

“Oftentimes we complain that we don’t have enough black officers, but we have not really strongly done a hardcore push to start working with the younger generation,” Pettis said. “And even people who get out of the military, for them to look into them going into law enforcement.”

Councilman Pettis was elected to serve as the Oklahoma City Council Ward 7 Councilman in 2013. At the age of 30,  Pettis became the youngest person to be elected to the Oklahoma City Council. A community volunteer and advocate, Pettis has served as an AmeriCorp member, volunteering in poverty communities in Oklahoma.

Pettis volunteers as director of the Oklahoma Institute for Minority Affairs Inc. and is currently leading a national coalition comprised of congressional and national civil rights leaders to improve equal employment opportunity regulations in the federal government. For the past several years, he has been serving as chair of the Central Oklahoma Workforce Investment Board Youth Council (Workforce Oklahoma).

Oklahoma City chief of police Bill Citty insisted diversity within the force was a continued goal and said he hoped to increase numbers to better represent Oklahoma City’s demographics. 

“I’ve always said, whether it’s a female, Hispanic, African-American, is we need that input, because it differs,” Citty said. “I don’t think the same way as a female might. I don’t think about those things. I don’t think as an African-American. I don’t think what might affect them, and culturally those things that might affect them.”

Citty was appointed chief by the city manager in 2003, after more than 25 years of service to the department. The chief’s office manages the day-to-day operation of the Oklahoma City Police Department. Several units report directly to the chief's office, including the special investigations division, criminal intelligence and the office of professional standards.

Citty previously served a variety of roles within the police department, working in patrol, narcotics, homicide, campus resources, tactical unit and public information. He is a lifelong resident of Oklahoma City and is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, the FBI National Academy, the Senior Management Institute for Police, the Federal Emergency Management Institute and the National Executive Institute.

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