More than 100 officers attended the meeting to hear Shadid and current Mayor Mick Cornett talk about law enforcement issues, including the controversial manpower issue and how each candidate would address the officer shortage problem.
John George, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 123, said the endorsement of Shadid was based on “zero communication” from Cornett and the manpower shortage that has “reached critical levels.”
“It’s time for a change,” he said. “The mayor has met with the FOP one time in the last nine years. The officers see that stuff and they see he doesn’t support us.”
George contends Shadid has been sincere in his meetings with the union leadership, vowing to include the FOP in finding solutions to the manpower issue.
Currently, OKC has about 1,000 officers, which is approximately the same number of officers who were on the force in 1993. Police Chief Bill Citty has said publicly that the department needs another 200 officers to adequately attend to citizens’ needs.
Cornett, who is seeking a record fourth term as mayor, acknowledged Friday morning that he didn’t expect to receive the union’s endorsement.
“But I went out of respect for the fine job they do,” he said, while declining further comment on the endorsement decision. “My appeal is going one-on-one with the voters, meeting people, shaking their hand and talking about the issues.”
Despite losing the endorsement, Cornett remains optimistic about his campaign.
“I sense that a lot of people are pulling on the same rope. They respect the consensus building that’s going on and that we’re doing things as a city and not splintering into special interest groups,” the mayor said.
Political bickering between city officials, including Cornett, and the FOP date back to 2009, when the union did not endorse the MAPS 3 initiative. However, George denied that the 2009 decision and MAPS 3 passage had any bearing on Shadid’s endorsement.
“I don’t see how he (Cornett) could expect an endorsement from us when he hasn’t worked with us in nine years,” George said. “This had nothing to do with MAPS 3 and everything to do with manpower and communication.”
Shadid, who is serving his first term as a councilman, was humbled by the union’s unanimous vote.
“To get every vote means a lot,” he said. “I laid out the problems and a clear vision for going forward.”
The Ward 2 councilman referred specifically to a 2009 report that showed OKC’s police department needed more than 200 officers to meet the demands of a growing population. Shadid claims the mayor ignored the report and tried to publicly downplay its significance.
“The mayor has been on the horseshoe (council meeting table) for 13 years, and we have less actual uniformed officers now than in any previous year,” Shadid said. “Crime is significant in Oklahoma City, and people in neighborhoods don’t feel safe.”
A 2012 survey revealed 53 percent of respondents feel safe in OKC, Citty reported during a June presentation to the Oklahoma City Council. The same report showed OKC experienced an increase of 210 aggravated assault cases in 2012 compared to the previous year.
Failure to address the violent crime issue will result in more assaults and homicides, increased drive-by shootings, a higher demand on public services and a decreased feeling of citizen safety, the chief told council members.
While admitting he doesn’t have the answer to the police manpower problem, Shadid said city officials need to discuss publicly ways to correct the officer shortage.
“I’m not talking about adding 10 or 20 officers and nickel-and-diming the problem,” he said. “We need to talk about this and pull our head out of the sand. We can’t rely solely on sales tax revenue to increase, which has been the mayor’s plan. Even by adding 20, 30 or 40 officers a year, you’re never going to catch up with the population growth OKC has experienced.”
The council authorized 30 new officers last year and added 40 new positions this year. However, Citty told the council in June that the officers would not be patrolling the streets by themselves for at least a year because of the required training time.