The nation has become more and more aware of police brutality’s systemic problem in our country over the summer as the Minneapolis Police Officers murdered George Floyd in June. Protests spread across the nation and were happening in every state, including Oklahoma; however, Tulsa Police Officer Maj. Travis Yates was making racist and insensitive comments in regards to the protests sweeping our country.
The Tulsa Police Department, famous for being on the A & E show Live P.D., long seen as a way to help the image of police departments currently still employs Maj. Travis Yates after racist comments he made in June in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the police’s hands. Yates spoke at length about the murder on Tulsa Public Radio and made headlines for saying, “We’re shooting African Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed.” The comment made in response to how many African-Americans were killed at police officers’ hands. However, Maj. Travis Yates’s words get to the core of his views, and we can look back to a series of essays and remarks he has made in response to other issues surrounding police brutality.
Travis Yates’s controversies began in 2016, wherein the Police Syndication he wrote for LawOfficer.com, he pinned an essay suggesting Black Live’s Matter Activist should not be allowed to visit the White House and addressed to police departments that: “WE ARE AT WAR!”. The comments at the time that Yates said they did gain some attention from local groups such as We The People Oklahoma, called for Yates’s resignation. Yates would apologize to those he offended with his comments and was reassigned and condemned by the Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan. The publication has deleted the article he wrote for LawOfficer.com.
The Tulsa Police Officer would write another controversial essay just 13 days before his “WE ARE AT WAR ESSAY!” essay in LawOfficer.com. This one titled, “Follow Commands or Die”, was written by Yate’s describing how “One thing in common with every so called “excessive force” video you have seen in recent years. The suspect is not following commands.” Yates goes on in the same essay to say, “Would we even of heard of North Charleston if on that fateful day, Scott would have actually followed the commands of the officer when he attempted to place him under arrest?” In response to the 2015 shooting of an unarmed African-American Walter Scott, which resulted in his death and a 20-year sentence for Officer Michael Slager after a video showed him firing eight rounds into Walter Scott’s back. The article written by Yates mentions his thoughts on protesters and law makers proposing changes at the time, “Protesters can protest and politicians can pass laws but unless you want police officers to “run away” from people that don’t comply, do not expect any of this to get better and if it wasn’t for the increased use of less lethal options by law enforcement, we would likely be seeing many more police shootings.” The statements show Yates’ unwillingness to compromise on his principles, and he truly believes that officers have the right to shoot civilians if they do not comply with their orders. He finishes his article by writing, “The way I see it, we have two options to stop police use of deadly force. Police stop being police or…..citizens can do what an officer says to do.” Travis Yates shares the sentiment that many in the police profession have shown that they genuinely believe they are above the law and that even unarmed civilians can be murdered if they don’t follow his command.
Travis Yates would also pen a letter to Tulsa’s mayor in 2018, referencing how racially profiling African-Americans is justified in Tulsa. He goes on to say, “That is the great scam that is being played out not only on us but agencies across the country.” The comments were made about a report about how police departments should mirror their citizen’s demographics. The letter goes on to have other racial overtones by mentioning that, “There is a more demand for law enforcement services (911 calls) from a smaller population in one side of town versus another.” Yates writes this referencing South Tulsa’s heavy police presence. He goes on to mention, “The issues that are causing the disparity in police contacts lie at the feet of men that are not raising their children.” Referencing why the Tulsa Police Department is converging on South Tulsa by blaming it on African American men not raising their children. This is also a standard line of attack from Police Departments across the country. However, Yates would take it a step further by making another claim that, “And fatherless homes have decimated African American sat a significantly higher rate than any other race.” He’s doing this all in part to defend his Police Department racially profiling African-Americans, and by attacking anyone who suggests that what they are doing is wrong. Yate’s posted this letter on the Fraternal Order of Police in Tulsa’s Facebook Page.
Maj. Travis Yates has shown an obvious pattern dating back to 2016. He has been reassigned to a civilian records division through his use of racially insensitive statements. However, who’s to say that he will not be back on Tulsa’s streets in the future? Yate’s statements made show his unwillingness to hear the population’s voices being affected by police violence and overpricing as a whole. After the most recent comments Yates made, he did not apologize; instead, he suggests seeking legal action against Tulsa Public Radio. As of this writing, Maj. The Tulsa Police Department still employs Travis Yates.
Shooting of Terrance Crutcher
The Tulsa Police department is no stranger to police brutality, and this resulted in the slaying of Terrance Crutcher, an unarmed African-American. The shooting occurred just two months after Maj. Terrance Yates would begin writing racist essays on LawOfficer.com. Terrance Crutcher was killed on September 16th, 2016, by Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby. Responding to a stalled vehicle call, Tulsa Police confronted Terrance Crutcher in the middle of a street. The situation would escalate as Terrance Crutcher did not comply with Betty Shelby’s orders, and as he reached inside his car, he was shot and killed. Police officers would later say that Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his car. Betty Shelby would go on trial for manslaughter but was acquitted, which led to massive protests in Tulsa. As a result, Betty Shelby would resign from the Tulsa Police Department and begin working for the Rodger’s County Sheriff’s Department. Betty Shelby currently serves as an NRA gun instructor.
The shooting of Terrance Crutcher and comments made by Maj. Travis Yates shortly before and now after these events show a pattern of racism in the Tulsa Police Department that needs to be addressed. However, all indications show that Yates is unwilling to change. Even if Betty Shelby no longer works as a Tulsa Police officer, she currently trains NRA members in the Tulsa area on how to fire pistols, the same weapon she killed Terrance Crutcher with. The nation has woken up to police brutality. It appears its Tulsa’s time as well.