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The FOP in Tulsa

The Tulsa Police Department has an FOP Lodge, sometimes called Lodge #93. Sapulpa, Sand Springs, Owasso, Broken Arrow, Muskogee, and many other area communities all have FOP Lodges. In Oklahoma there are some FOP Lodges that are affiliated with some sheriff’s offices as well.

The overall structure of the FOP allows each chapter to be connected to the larger whole, and yet reflect the flavor and culture of their local communities, police officers, and their families. Even locally, the Tulsa Police Lodge #93 is a different group than the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Deputies Lodge #188. They share many common factors, like wanting safe neighborhoods, and distaste for the criminal element. But they work for two different governments, the city or the county, so there are issues unique to each Lodge.

In some states and communities, the FOP is a true labor union that can mirror some of the larger mining or manufacturing labor unions that played so prominently in our history. In other locales, the FOP is a social organization that sees to the needs of police officers and their families in areas not directly tied to salary and working conditions.

For police officers working for cities in Oklahoma, almost all of the FOP organizations try to do two functions. The most important function of officers is to work with and within their cities to improve crime fighting. Most elected officials are well intended, but all of them are temporary, in an environment where criminal activity is not. A vibrant FOP helps the professional officers have input into the long-term crime-fighting needs of their community in the face of normal political turn over.

The FOP also has a second general function that includes trying to make certain that the political winds do not let the salaries, benefits, and basic working conditions of the police officers fall too far away from a reasonable level. No police officer took the job to get rich. They did not take the job to be poor either.

In February of 1937, only 22 years after the first FOP Lodge was founded in Pittsburg, PA, the Tulsa Police FOP Lodge #93 was chartered. It was the first Lodge in Oklahoma and thought to be the first FOP Lodge West of the Mississippi River.

The Great Depression was still gripping the United States. The Dust Bowl was the lot of the State of Oklahoma then. Two lane roads instead of interstate highways, only a small percent of homes had indoor plumbing, or electricity. Prohibition was still strong in Oklahoma then.

Death benefits for officers injured and killed on duty had not evolved in those times. The FOP gathered together to try and improve the situations of the widows and children of officers who were making large sacrifices for their community.

During the waning years of the Depression and the first years of World War II the FOP fought for, and got, better benefits for the survivors of injured and killed officers. The benefits could not be called “good” but they were better than the “nothing” survivors were used to getting.

With the end of World War II Tulsa shared in the economic and population booms of that time. The Tulsa Police Department also grew. Younger, better educated, more “worldly” people joined the Department in the late 40’s early 50’s, many of them military veterans. Many of these veterans brought with them new ideas including ideas about pay and benefits.

The Tulsa FOP along with police officers from other cities, began working on a retirement program for police officers. The work was in the State Legislature. The FOP spearheaded the effort to make a program for police officers state wide. In the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s the work continued until a viable program was created. Today, municipal police officers enjoy one of the most financially sound retirement programs in Oklahoma.

Prohibition was not repealed from Oklahoma until the late 1950’s. Liquor flowed illegally from many places throughout Tulsa. The politics of bootlegging was a part of city government and no less the police department. It was common for mayors to bring in “their” Police Chiefs when they were elected into office. Many times, issues surrounding liquor drove the election, or ouster, of mayors and the administrators they brought with them.

In 1958 a Civil Service program was implemented in the City of Tulsa which began to give some level or protection to city employees from the political winds. Civil Service protection was a good start toward the goal of a less political and more professional police force.

The State FOP

While advocating Civil Service protections, the Tulsa FOP saw a need for a broader level of involvement of the working level officers in the policies and rules of the Tulsa Police Department. Tulsa FOP members along with FOP members from Oklahoma City and other police departments began working again at the State Legislature.

More than a decade of work was needed to bring a broader view of police professionalism and protection to the State Legislature. All over the State of Oklahoma officers in the various police departments were gathering and creating local FOP chapters, usually called ‘Lodges.

The term Lodge harkens back to the Elks/Service/Masonic roots of the FOP. FOP members from many cities in Oklahoma began working in Oklahoma City to bring about a state wide view of municipal policing. After working on a pension system over the 1940s, many of the state’s FOP lodges created a coalition of lodges in 1951 to become the Oklahoma State FOP (OKFOP).

Working from the foundations of a fraternal organization rather than a labor organization, OKFOP members were faced with a quandary. Some sort of labor law probably was what needed to be crafted to help bring about a more protected and professional police force. But the best known tactic of labor unions is the work stoppage or strike used to cripple the business of the employer.

Historically, police officers spend more time on the boardwalks than in the boardrooms. Spend more time talking to the tax payers than the tax collectors. Police officers and the community are usually more in tune with each other than city hall is in tune with the people, or any elected official or police chief is in tune with the officers.

Good citizens want good officers who do a good job. Police officers want to do a good job for the citizens. When you get too far ‘above’ the citizen/officer level, the disconnect grows the farther you go.

With that in mind, if matters between police officers and administrative officials get really disconnected, a strike or work slow down, does not have the same effect. Profits will not fall, production lines will not break, shipments will not back up or rot on a dock somewhere.

The mayor, commissioner, councilor or police chief will suffer no damages or loss of dividend. Unfortunately, the people with whom the officers work, and for whom those officers work, are the people who get hurt, not the folks making the poor decisions.

To help settle matters between city administrations and your police officers, in 1972 the Oklahoma State Legislature passed the Fire and Police Arbitration Act (FPAA). That law came after much work from FOP Lodges all over the State. It has changed and evolved over the years.

The current version of the FPAA has binding arbitration as the method of settling disputes between city administrators and your police officers. One cool aspect of Oklahoma’s binding arbitration is that it gives the voters a voice in the matter.

Page Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018 (11:38:20)
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