A proposed ordinance that would require Enid police officers to record specific demographic data during major interactions again will be considered at Tuesday’s city commission meeting.
City commissioners tabled the proposal, 5-2 at the most recent meeting and would have to vote Tuesday to remove it from the table before then voting to pass it.
Commissioners Ben Ezzell and Jonathan Waddell had for the last year requested interaction data from Enid Police Department to see if a pattern of racial disparity exists among major police interactions.
Ezzell said Monday he put the proposal back on the agenda in hoping other commissioners have had the time to to get questions answered since March 16’s meeting.
According to data Ezzell referenced during the meeting, Black people in Enid are being arrested at around four times the rate of the city’s population, which was reported at 2.8% in 2010’s U.S. Census.
However, any conclusions of racial disparity in targeting can’t be drawn without complete data, and the data they got after months of pressing police officials were ultimately incomplete, both commissioners said.
If the ordinance passes, police officers would record specific data information during so-called “significant interactions” with members of the public, including but not limited to vehicle stops, roadblocks and checkpoints, pedestrian stops, arrests, interviews and suspects.
It would require demographic data collection that is not collected now, City Attorney Carol Lahman said.
Data categories would include race/ethnicity, sex, age, English speaker, and for vehicle stops, indicate driver or passenger, and how many people are in the vehicle.
The following race categories would be used: Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Other, Pacific Islander, Two or More Races, Unknown and White. Officers would not select Other, Two or More Races or Unknown without providing additional notes in an appropriate report elaborating on why this choice was selected.
EPD then would electronically maintain the data and provide detailed, quarterly statistical summaries to the city of Enid’s Police Civil Service Commission and Enid City Commission. These summaries would include quarterly and rolling annual category totals.
Lahman said in the initial agenda item that the ordinance might not follow Enid City Charter rules that Enid City Commission has control over the police department’s budget, but not day-to-day operations.
“The passing of an ordinance that mandates the collection of data points for every police contact no matter how slight would have an impact on the day to day operation of the department,” City Attorney Carol Lahman wrote in a memo to the commission, City Manager Jerald Gilbert and Chief Brian O’Rourke.
O’Rourke said the proposal should not be un-tabled because he also thinks it violates city charter.
O’Rourke has remained opposed to the ordinance for myriad reasons — because EPD’s two data reporting systems, ITI and Digaticket, already respectively remain federally and state-compliant, redoing one of the systems would be too expensive and that the department is “not broken,” he said.
“I will always remain opposed to any political influence over the police department,” O’Rourke said Monday. “When they wrote the charter (in 1937, creating the civil service commission) … they took political influence away from the police department, and that’s pretty smart.”
He also said the data being collected could be intrusive and stopping people during interactions was too broad, as the ordinance doesn’t specify what is considered a “significant” interaction.
Ezzell said a guidebook he’d referenced from the Center for Policing Equity recommended police record data for all vehicle stops every time an officer pulls over a vehicle, as well as all checkpoints and roadblocks.
Pedestrian interactions should be recorded when they could result in an officer stop — when an officer takes actions that would make any reasonable person feel they aren’t free to walk away from the officer.
“Officers need not record encounters that are purely casual and voluntary, such as helping someone with directions, asking residents how their day is going or inquiring about neighborhood issues of concern,” the guide reads.
“We can be more specific, but I thought that including that language gave a little more discretion to the police department to implement that more specifically,” Ezzell said.
Lahman also said the department’s data systems would not produce reliable data that is “consistent and probative” because neither covers all points of contact addressed in the ordinance.
“To mandate the collection of data over and above what is required by federal and state law, when the data collected will be incomplete and inconsistent, is not a good use of public safety resources or public money,” she wrote in her memo.
Ezzell said he has not received an answer to a list of questions about the software he sent to the department and Lahman.
“Yeah, that (it’d be expensive to replace software) might not be wrong, but also it’s really expensive just to own the software we own,” Ezzell said. “We are using a bunch of different pieces of software that have just been cobbled together over the years when what lots of police departments have done ... is they’d sought an integrated technology system.”
The commission meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Stride Bank Center.
Staff Writer Kelci McKendrick contributed to this story.