Okla. legislators warn of 'spread of anarchy' due to lacking support for LE
The Republicans also criticized calls to defund police and so-called "cancel culture"
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY — Amid widespread calls for police reform, 12 Oklahoma legislators offered their support for law enforcement Wednesday, warning "the spread of anarchy is quite likely" due to changes in public opinion on police.
The Republicans also criticized calls to defund police and so-called "cancel culture," in which public officials or groups are shamed for supporting unpopular ideas.
In a lengthy news release, the lawmakers insinuated recent protests calling for racial justice and police reforms have created a hostile environment for law enforcement. Legislators wanted to reaffirm their support for law enforcement, Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, told The Oklahoman.
"With all the lawlessness that we’ve seen across the nation in the recent months and weeks, then the shooting in Tulsa kind of brought it to a head that these people that are out there on the front lines need encouragement, they need support, they need respect, they need to know that we have their backs as they defend us, he said.
Two Tulsa Police officers were shot multiple times during a traffic stop Monday. One of the officers, a 15-year veteran of the department, has since died. The Tulsa police union said the shooting was the result of “the national anti-police narrative," a message that has been amplified by U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin and dismissed by groups critical of law enforcement.
"The individual who shot those police officers in cold blood, he ain’t nothing about being woke," said Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa. "It wasn’t part of anything broader. That guy shot two police officers, and he’s going to be dealt with."
As for the possibility for anarchy, Gann pointed to large-scale and recurring protests against police killings in cities like Seattle.
"We don’t want that here," he said referring to the protests.
Nichols, who is Black, said he wasn't surprised to hear such rhetoric from some of the most conservative legislators in the House.
"There is not anybody that I have talked to that is defending the guy that shot the two officers here in Tulsa," he said. "That press release that they put out there, it means absolutely nothing because we all support law enforcement."
Nichols also dismissed the idea of defunding the police, which has become a rallying cry for some activist groups.
In the release, the Republican legislators said, "we will never bend a knee to a mob, nor will we ever comply with demands to defund those who protect the rule of law and the citizens of Oklahoma."
Nichols, whose father is a police officer in Houston, is building bipartisan support for a series of legislative reforms that would increase oversight of law enforcement entities.
He has not called for defunding the police, nor have other Democrats in the Oklahoma Legislature. Local police departments are funded by municipalities, which means the GOP-controlled Legislature would have little ability to defund the police in the unlikely event there was widespread support for the action among legislators.
Democrats feel Oklahoma can appropriately invest in law enforcement and increase mental health services, Nichols said.
He also pointed to bipartisan legislation that would have allowed for the creation of public safety districts. The measure that passed the House this year would have allowed municipalities to use property taxes to pay for public safety services.
Nichols noted 10 of the 12 Republicans who issued support for law enforcement in the news release, opposed the public safety districts bill supported by Tulsa and the Tulsa Regional Chamber.
"Given their votes, it should be noted they're already on record 'defunding' the police," he said.
The Republican legislators also took aim at "cancel culture," a term for when public figures or companies that have said or done something objectionable are effectively cancelled. It often manifests as public shaming on social media.
Some conservatives have lampooned the relatively new phenomenon that is often tied to a culture of political correctness. Even the White House has chimed in on "cancel culture," saying President Donald Trump opposes the practice and said it seeks to erase history.
"As America risks falling into the abyss of anarchy, the totalitarian mob, with implicit consent of too many government officials, takes down statues, denounces their support for America, demonstrates their so called 'wokeness' by canceling classic movies, television shows and products," the Republicans said in the joint statement. "They intimidate anyone from the silent majority who dares the slightest disagreement with their new ideology and seem to be attempting to erase history itself.”
Gann said the legislators are working on legislation in support of law enforcement. Saying the legislation is in its "infant stages," he declined to elaborate on their substance.
The Republicans representatives that signed onto the joint statement are: Gann; Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont; David Hardin, R-Stilwell; Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin; Justin Humphrey, R-Lane; Jim Olsen, R-Roland; Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula; Sean Roberts, R-Hominy; David Smith, R-Arpelar; Jay Steagall, R-Yukon; Johnny Tadlock, R-Idabel; Kevin West, R-Moore.
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