December 5, 2020   
Norman, OK - Members of Norman Collective for Racial Justice are disappointed to learn of the recent ruling in Fraternal Order of the Police Bratcher/Miner Lodge 122 v. City of Norman. Thanks to Carter County assistant district judge Thomas K. Baldwin, the FOP can, for the moment, enjoy a favorable ruling from a judge whose political sympathies for police overshadowed his fidelity to the rule of law. Whether his argument will hold up in a higher court remains to be seen.
However, public participation in local democratic decision making by elected leaders cannot be eliminated just because a police union wishes it so. Members of Norman Collective for Racial Justice have developed long standing relationships with city officials, including both elected leaders and staff. NC4RJ has worked directly with the city to advise on the creation of the Norman Citizens Advisory Board, planned and hosted a public forum on racial justice in City Hall for the candidates ahead of the 2019 municipal elections, served on city committees, and regularly consulted with council members and the mayor on issues of diversity and incidents of racism in our community. 
On June 9, 2020 City manager Darrel Pyle, mayor Breea Clark and Police chief Kevin Foster took a private meeting with three members of NC4RJ to discuss the demands that had been announced on June 6th. In that meeting, it became clear to the members of NC4RJ that the city’s contract with the FOP was the primary obstacle to transparency and accountability for NPD. Now, in light of recent events, it is clear that the FOP is a major obstacle to the functioning of our local democracy as well. 
Robert Wasoski, president of the Norman FOP Lodge #122, has claimed that the June 16th city council budget vote “violated the will of Norman voters.” But Wasoski admitted in an October 7th interview that he had not voted in ten years, and had been “very much disinterested” in voting. And in the city’s most recent municipal race, the Norman FOP Lodge only endorsed one candidate, incumbent Bill Scanlon, who lost his seat in the June 30th runoff election. The efforts to recall elected officials in retaliation for the budget vote, generously funded by deep pocketed real estate interests and direct beneficiaries of police payrolls, have all failed.
The evidence is clear that the June 16th budget vote did not, in fact, violate the will of the voters of Norman. However, the vote does go against the personal financial interest of Wasoski and others like him who are paid handsomely by the city to conduct expensive trainings for new police officers. But our municipal budget should not exist to serve the financial interests of a privileged few. 
Currently, Norman residents are still living with debris from the October ice storm piled up on curb sides across town, blocking the view of drivers navigating city streets and creating road hazards. Many in our community have lost their jobs and are facing eviction from their homes. Families are struggling with illness and lack of access to child care and safe socialization. The municipal government is, for some people, the only hope of a coordinated response to the multiple crises that have converged on our city all at the same time. We need our city leaders to be able to devote their full energy to addressing these ongoing emergencies. And yet, the police union has done everything in its power to undermine and inhibit the functioning of our local government, further draining the resources of an already stressed city budget and the time and energy of our city staff and elected officials with cumbersome, retaliatory litigation.
For too long, the city of Norman has relied on a police-only model of public safety. The pandemic has made clear how unsustainable this model is. In June, a large plurality of Norman residents asked the city to move in a different direction, and elected officials were persuaded by their constituents to invest in something new. The FOP is a powerful and well resourced institution, but no amount of money or copaganda will be able to make Norman residents unsee and unhear the public testimonies of police brutality and discrimination that were given in the city council chambers this past June. Norman residents will not forget that in a time of great suffering, the FOP chose to attack our local democracy out of a sense of entitlement to our city funds, instead of respecting the rights of our residents to make their voices heard by their elected officials. 
Like other residents of this community, members of our collective have suffered the effects of the pandemic in our daily lives and in our own bodies. Like other Norman residents, our members have lost their jobs, been displaced from our houses, and lost sleep over worries about sick children and teachers in our schools. But even in the worst of times, we know we were right to boldly speak the truth to our elected representatives. And they heard us, and will continue to hear us. 
Our demands on the city of Norman with regards to the Norman Police Department remain the same: Defund Norman PD. Demilitarize Norman PD. Transparency and Accountability. Justice for Marconia Kessee and all other victims of Norman PD. End the School Resource Officer program in Norman Public Schools. 
We will continue to fight for these demands to be realized. Some of our critics have said these demands, which were announced in solidarity with the national Movement for Black Lives, are “radical.” If working through participatory democracy to build a more comprehensive and humane model of public safety for ourselves and for our children is “radical,” then the status quo is a dangerous thing to uphold. The members of our community who realize this must work together to find ways to create public safety for all that do not rely on coercion, violence, and criminalization as the police-only model of public safety does. 
A budget is a moral document. If the residents of our city believe we can solve social problems without resorting to the coercive violence of policing, then our municipal budget needs to invest in better tools than guns and handcuffs. We need public safety solutions that address the root causes of social problems, not just their symptoms. We will continue to advocate for significant investments in programs that create safety for everyone in our community. 

Norman Citizens for Racial Justice (NC4RJ) was founded in October 2017 as a local advocacy and action-oriented affiliation of grassroots activists in the Norman area. In September of 2020, the group changed its name to Norman Collective for Racial Justice to better reflect the group mission and organizational structure.

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