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Leaders want Oklahoma City’s new top cop to boost relations

July 9, 2019
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In this Monday, July 8, 2019 photo, new Oklahoma City Police Department Chief Wade Gourley pauses at a news conference at police headquarters in Oklahoma City. Gourley, a 30-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, replaces former Chief Bill Citty, who retired in May after 41 years with the agency. (Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman via AP)
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In this Monday, July 8, 2019 photo, new Oklahoma City Police Department Chief Wade Gourley pauses at a news conference at police headquarters in Oklahoma City. Gourley, a 30-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, replaces former Chief Bill Citty, who retired in May after 41 years with the agency. (Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City’s community leaders say they are cautiously optimistic that the city’s new police chief will improve relations between the police department and historically underrepresented groups.

Wade Gourley, 51, was appointe d Monday as the department’s first new chief in 15 years and will oversee more than 1,200 uniformed officers. A 30-year veteran of the force, Gourley replaces former Chief Bill Citty, who retired in May after 41 years with the agency.

Kris Steele, executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, told The Oklahoman he hopes Gourley recruits and employs a diverse police force. About 6% of the department’s officers are Hispanic, 6% are black and 1% are Asian. But the Census Bureau says Oklahoma City’s population is 18.5% Hispanic, 14.3% black and 4% Asian.

Steele lauded Citty’s work in the community and pointed to his efforts to reduce the county jail population. Those who work in the criminal justice reform arena want to see Gourley build on Citty’s successes, Steele said.

Raul Font, president of the Latino Community Development Agency, said that along with Deputy Chief Paco Balderrama, Citty was very involved in the Hispanic community. The community is expecting the same from Gourley.

“That presence and that trust, having Paco still there, I still think the community is hopeful that ... we will still have a voice there,” Font said.

Valerie Thompson, president of the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, said her organization has had a longstanding relationship with Oklahoma City police. She wants to see Gourley strengthen those ties.

“It’s very important that the entire community, but particularly the African American community, to have a good relationship with the police chief,” she said.

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