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OKC sexual assault response: Warp and weft at the OKC City Council (Part 2)

OKC sexual assault response: how the OKC City council handles things
YWCA national graphic photoshopped and added commentary

Warp and weft.... directional threads woven together to make cloth or a rug. What is OKC City Council response to anything, including sex assault made of?

This is second in a series on understanding how the Oklahoma City Council's stance and process of response for sexual assault, following a complex crime spree currently defined against 8 African American women in Oklahoma City's Springlake Patrol Division to be by a white patrol officer from the OKPD. This particular article is a simple review of the course of events in what is probably a pretty standard encounter with the Oklahoma City Council, on any given week.

This past week, this writer went to the Oklahoma City Council meeting, and sat for more than 5 hours waiting for a roughly 3 minute spot of citizen comment in order to speak on the recent problem of assault above, but also the problems inherent in the sexual assault response in OKC, known and reported for the last 8 years or so sans meaningful response. It is probably true a new victim would never go to such a televised and public event. It is probably true that most people cannot afford to be off work or school for what is in effect an entire day of business, among other things.

The Oklahoma City Council meeting opens with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer offered by an area leader. The invited City Council ministerial guest Tuesday, probably from a pre-scheduled rotation of same was a white Christian Reverend who made no mention in the invocation of this crime spree. As the Rev. ask for blessings, mercy or guidance from God, comments were absent for victims of this exact gross human rights infraction of rape and other crimes. The prayer was also absent petition for the highest level of discernment by City Councilors, the OKCPD, or for those present in the gallery, the general public in observance or even the alleged. Was each person to remain an island of disconnect on social justice issues related to this broadcast allegation of sexual assault in OKC?

The City Council sits on a horsehoe arrangement, so a semi-circle of seats, which face the gallery. Speakers approach a microphone in the center of that configuration, at the front of the room. The speaker will face the Council, so their facial expressions are not discernable to the public as they speak. Above the horseshoe, is a drop screen, which is used to project plans, documents and maps, photographs and graphics related to shares by the Council or presenter.

Agendas are distributed at the door, and was no less than 30 pages on this day. This writer listened to the agenda which included: issues regarding businesses in stages of design; White Water Rafting venue designs and related funding; business operations and building; whether to fund a seemingly sketchy loan with tax dividends returned to a third party on a co-sign from the City. And a question of ethics and fairness of calls for expedited decisions regarding building on vacant lots.

There was acknowledgment of the winner of OKCPS Teacher of the Year 2013-2014 who was also the August winner. Celebration of Senior Centers across OKC who range from their early 50's well into their 90's. Kudos noted from third parties to the urban gardening powerhouse, Closer to Earth and their cooperative partnership with OKC Festival of the Arts showing very high marks for their green gestures successes at the annual festival.

It is remarkably noted that 1.5 hours of this meeting were devoted to a dually held business request which could change the face again of OKC services for transportation options.

The City Council meeting public agenda wrapped up with a couple of people with water problems caused seemingly by city staff actions or city owned delivery systems or equipment. So the City utility attorney advised that Oklahoma City requires advanced notice of a water main problem, in order to allow consideration for reimbursement of damages incurred by the presence or absence of water problems. This first man relayed there had been an unexplained and unanticipated break in the line. This break was on the city easement, across another's property. The break flowed across the other property and subsequently flooded the petitioners lawn and then home with as much as 6" of water. The problem was witnessed by a staff member from the OKC Water Department, but this person did not leave a name, card, phone number or complaint/ report/incident form number with the man. This staffer inaction, was technically intractable and the petitioner to be unserved by current policy, custom or law., because he could not say WHY or WHEN the main broke. No City Water service employee was present to provide a related prepared report, or to access systems to answer the question as it was presented. Only the attorney over the water issue. Who said it was a no go.

This first scenario water rule/law seems to avoid acknowledging intuitive the awareness most Oklahoman's have about "here". Things like the super extreme hot and cold of seasons here can cause fissures with drought that make the dirt stress and contract with various damaging results. OKC crumbling infrastructure in things like waterlines, and the new thing of earthquakes ( as many as 4 a day) some say is caused by fracking. are all common and accepted knowledge community wide now.

This writer never noted any Councilor acknowledge this resident as "their" constituent. Given that also, not one person on the City Council suggested this first water case issue in model needed to be tipped to any sort of liaison meeting between city and state government, or that OKC needed to develop some other reparative rules. He was advised that state law prohibited any further city actions. That was all.

The second man with a water problem, took a moment to express concern that there was no lesser path to address his problem and was surprised at being asked to petition the City Council in a televised action as his first stage of response after writing to complain of what happened and getting no assistance. City had on first pass refused to reimburse for property damage after heavy equipment passed from the front thru a fenced backyard to fix a water main destroying the function of this man's water sprinkler system. This second man was allowed a legal team revisit of his property damage problem as the inbound problem initial report misdocumented the location of the damage and was basically wrong, making reimbursement impossible. Second water man too, did not indicate a ticket number, complaint number reference, assigned staffer to assist, business card, survey of satisfaction, or any commonly used measure to mark the problem or rate the effectiveness of the process or even acknowledge the presence of the work crew.

See the 1.) lack of system to receive problems in the simplest of interactions. 2.) lack of community awareness of choices, especially when 3.) the problem is not covered by common policy. 4.) no issuance of a single accountable supervisory person for the work product 5.) no chain of command or obvious process to proceed with least restrictive resolutions. 6.) most processes go to some version of hire a lawyer, often from the point of report. 7.) no follow through to improve responses and no plan to prevent a repeat action for either problem... basically a lack of empathic response to protect, encourage and aid the rightful, reasonable petition of the affected.

Please try to remember these two unrelated issues. Strangely enough this will be important in considering next right things in causality in action or inaction with the Oklahoma City Council ( Why things happen like they do, and what gets done about it by the City Council.) regarding many things.

Then, Police Chief Bill Cittie spoke, but he talked about revisions in a coding manual, and third party use, or anyone's use of department vehicles or leased vehicles or weapons under the name of the OKCPD. No mention of Office Holtzclaw's arrest the prior Friday on multiple charges of sexual misconduct on the job.

Later, 2 Councilors were thankful for the pick up of the alleged rapist. One acknowledged simply the risk to the community for having a reported rapist loose.

The City Council for Oklahoma City is 80% "white" and 90% male. Though it is common here in Indian Country, there is no indication anyone on the Oklahoma City Council is Native American, as noted by tribal affiliation or CBID card carrying membership on their biographies for the City Council.

There is one African American male Council representative, Mr.John Pettis, (Ward 7) who happens to be over the exact area where these alleged assaults occurred. One Lebanese American, Dr.Ed Shadid ( Ward 2) the coverage area for Springlake Patrol Division including his ward. One white female, Ms.Meg Salyer (over Ward 6), which may also have a percentage covered by Springlake. Ms. Salyer happened to be absent from the meeting by the time the subject of the assaults finally emerged by citizen comment calling for audit and change, 5+ hours into the meeting.

During this Tuesday meeting, as the complaint was undefined, no City Council members called for audit of processes in sexual assault. None called for change or any look at better preventative efforts. Noone questioned the response time or type. No call even for the most current numbers locally or nationally on the incidence of any crime by a city employee against the public. (i.e. how wierd is this accused collection of actions?)

No offer of additional funding for the Police Chief Cittie to improve the process through better hiring or fitness for duty checks, no additional calls for training, No reminder that the OKCPD may be down as much as 600 staff due to failure to provide supports for incremental growth to match the needs of this 600+ square mile city over the last 12 years.

No suggestion of call to understand this process of sexual assault response, which is foreign to most people in it's intricacies anyway. Whether as a freestanding issue of sex assault, misuse of power by a seemingly impaired badge holding employee and the collective question of this set of hyperfocused attacks targeting African Americans females wasn't discussed.

This crime spree in general and these women and their race and status are a very important truth to be held up directly for public consideration. The OKC failed sex assault response is a problem for everyone, and the broader reach of pervasive crime is too.

Oklahoma City has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation, period. The police department is absent sufficient staffing patterns for ALL staff positions, period. OKCPD has an absence of funding for proper professional and seasoned staff for many of the advanced jobs of supervisor, or specialized detectives, period. The police department has an absence of state of the art electronics for communications, data entry and culling of reports or mapping crime report patterns for the most rapid and exact monitoring of resources, including where staff are, and what any staff does with their time, period.

Upon these reports enmasse, failure to fund the Police Department finally has many, exact faces in and out of the police department. Why did this have to roll to a crisis? Who is driving this bus of failed responses? Will things improve?

Why isn't anyone talking about this being bullying or even sabotage of workproduct of the Police Chief? What right has led the Oklahoma City Council, led by Mayor Mick Cornett for 12 years, to refuse to fund in exaction, this hired, mature, grown man, who is an seasoned, trained professional who explained in detail using mapping of costs and need for himself and his spectrum of staffers?

See how the City touted a diluted response as proper aid, in this message from the Oklahoma City manager, Jim Couch regarding the budget here:

Why is this not being discussed as interpersonal violence, as those numbers feed this chronic systemic failure over time. A cascade effect becomes possible so, badly treated and underpaid employees can act out, but moreover, a lack of resources cause stretching too thin things to snap, period. That would be now. Did someone forget, that OKC is now happily and regularly inviting the world to our door for visiting, vacation, residence or business? Stop fudging.

Is there no process which allows such things like the City Council members or even the Mayor to provide protest, protective public complaint or constructive criticism or other active actions FOR the public, especially after such an extreme slew of complaint and high crime?

There is a fairly fat learning curve in understanding the formal and informal protocols of sex assault response for anyone. Have any of the people on the Oklahoma City Council delved into this to understand why it might or might not be working properly independent of this event? Had an inservice? Hired an advanced, nationally recognized expert for consultation for issues related to perpetrators or victims?

Additionally, sex assault response is splayed over a variety of services, which includes but is not limited to city, county, state and federal rules as well as some private service functions. Funding sources have rules that are imposed on top of the policy or procedures decided by the state law, and then by the agency itself. So who pays for the services, and who decides what happens with the services and money have many strings. Who is driving the bus? OKC Mayor Mick Cornett, OKCPD Chief Cittie or someone or something else?

Caring and humanizing responses... as with the water problem are not relayed by the city at the point of response but then also later in sticky wicket issues like this. Is this now the age of litigation only? Are victims simply told to get a lawyer from the point of report or before? Does risk management by the city cause such absence of focused and methodical assessment, planning and productive answers to real life questions, especially in forced services such as the sex assault continuum of response following criminal actions against the public. What makes this so mangled, indirect and ineffective?

Is that mangling held under an oath of loyalty to the actual city of Oklahoma City instead of loyalty of city electeds and employees to the citizens, visitors, students, patrons and businesses owners who are Oklahoma City at the heart? Who will reveal the things that hold the failure tight? Who will now reveal so it can be easily recognized? Who will act on issues of public safety, human rights and respect on forced services following victimization?

OKC City Council Tuesday was guided by the City Attorney (who is allowed to sit directly next to the Mayor at the meeting)? Whereas the Police Chief, nor Fire Chief nor head of EMS nor School Board Superintendent nor the Oklahoma City County Health Department or Utilities or Parks and Recreation for example, they are not functionally present, sitting as peers to the Council.... nor do they present as a team to solve problems they all are facing, such as this failed sex assault response. Do they ever?

By the way, Chief Cittie was present for more than half of this meeting Tuesday. And did personally approach this writer after.

Sexual assaults are a combustible issue for most people irrespective of age of the victim. The" ick factor" the ick factor is quite high. In Oklahoma, basic sex education is not taught in most places. Beyond that, fact based information on sexual assaults is so remote or is tainted and polarized by politics and religion, questions of racism, ageism, gender bias, classism, sexism and/or religious bias. Hard to see through the thicket, in the absence of accurate baseline information and such a turbulent environment, no matter how quietly that happens.

Is OKC frozen in time? Starting at least in 2013, Dr. Ed Shadid brought up issues of public safety, and provided an educational townhall http://<iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> meeting free to the public within the last 12 months. Shadid also has in a wide variety of forums directed eyes to sexual victimizations as a top risk issue for OKC citizens and visitors. Separately, over time, Shadid has multiply noted the need for OKC City Council meetings to be reformatted to make spaces for recognition, discussion and action on high risk topics like sexual assault and public safety needs.

Mayor Mick Cornett has identified the Oklahoma City Attorney will provide a handout of some kind on issues of sexual assault response policy which will be reviewed by the Oklahoma City Council. At some point, this will be shared with the public.

Public reflection on this issue in advance of that offering is pretty important. This series will continue to address issues ramping up to the release of that first document, which will hopefully be provided in a form that the average citizen can read in order for anyone who wishes to, to follow along.

So far it appears:

1.) The public is responsible for bringing issues of concern forward to the City Council at the City Council weekly meeting.

2.) There is a pretty high chance that anything the public brings forward would require a private attorney in accompaniment.

3.) There is a pretty high chance that an average student or employee would be unable to attend or ongoingly participate in the city council process to introduce things, as one could rarely allow for 5-8 hours ( including travel and wait time)

4.) Petitions to be heard are submitted the morning of the event, with no indication of whether the request will be heard that day.

5.) There is no indication that there is a scribe or translator for any person who wishes to speak, if perhaps the person does not read or write, or has English as a learned language, or no English at all. All forms were in English, as was the agenda and the entire process. No translator earbuds offered at the door. Bring your own, or ask in advance. Who? How much?

6a) There appears to be no current or promise of liaison grouping between citizen reasonable needs and advanced government function, so the City Council did not follow things like the first water issue to a better resolution and actually no instruction was given to this person as to next right things. Additionally, no offer was made to "close the loop" on the source of the problem as defined by this unknown water department staffer. This first water problem man is to find the employee? And how many times is a complaint to be made before it hits the ridiculous button? How many hours should a citizen expect to have to spend to be heard, when seemingly victimized? Or can the codes, management, policy, custom and law dilute or divert responsibility or complaint elsewhere... or make it a non- problem for the city, while it is still a short and long term problem for the resident or complainant, with consequences which must be tended?

6b.) This is called a "hamsterwheel" response, where the complainant is sent endlessly on meaningless errands or never aided and the problem can actually happen again and again to this person or others. A protective, preventative response for the public never comes. Hamsterwheel responses are often driven by some remarkable things : 1.) an ineffective system of documenting inbound complaints 2.) an inaccurately documented complaint which never gets audited so easy corrections are possible 3.) staff misuse of rules to avoid assistance to the complainant 4.) staff with personality or character problems who cannot discern a helpful response and some try to cause chaos BTW people with mental health issues and addictions issues often respond reactively, like this 5.) learning or comprehension problems on the part of the staff responding, causing gross errors in reading the report, responding to the report or documenting the report or applied response. 6.) insufficient funds or staff to respond to the problem and it languishes or is removed to reduce work ( thing VA hospitals and their que or failure to attend)

6c) What happens to the complainant AFTER that spinning and ultimately directionless set of errands happens, even if only once, is called "systems induced trauma". So when the first water person came and did not help, the complainant and his wife and home were in a high state of distress and got only the water turned off and repair to main. There was not assistance to any resulting issues, so there was no caring courtesy, plan to negotiate a solution, time, energy or money. BTW no City Council representative addressed this first water problem speaker, only the Mayor and utility attorney. No neighborly response. No courtesy follow up to check satisfaction or safety. This type of experience is very distressing and avoidable, and typically b and c combine to make the neighbors or the news toss out some reflection of "ain't that a shame" "that is shocking", but noone knows what to do to prevent or solve the problem.

7.) Auxillary administrators who impact the quality of life in OKC do not seem to have a "seat" at the horseshoe, and does this delay possible resource management to problem resolution? Should the PD sit there? School? Water, Sewer? Parks? Team responses work better than this ricochet dodge ball activity that seems to be going on now. Team responses get to cohesive and comprehensive, quicker, more cost effective, timely responses that can be adjusted over time as need be.

8.) City Councilors or other reps, like the Police Chief are not allowed to ask for money or audit at the Oklahoma City Council at points of obvious need.

9.) There is no process of review of remarkable issues in the City Council, and the Council nor the Mayor review the week's events or set aside time for consideration of any aspect, in education, update or suggestion. So hot spot issues like the one faced by these women, which may be a hate crime, never gets required airtime at the Oklahoma City Council.

10.) No indication that there is any awareness that there is any other method to run this meeting.. manage crucial issues..... or perhaps alternative methods to grow this city.

Mayor Mick Cornett identified that a packet of some kind would be directed to the City Council Members from the City Attorney and would be revealed to the public and this writer at some point. It appeared this comment would discern which laws, policy or custom are in the purview of the City Council regarding sex assault response.

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