Back to Work?
News that a federal grant will allow 35 recently laid-off Tulsa Police officers to return to work soon was greeted warmly by the head of Tulsa's Fraternal Order of Police lodge.
"We think it's great," FOP President Phil Evans said. "Anything they can do to bring back some officers is a good thing. We've been asking the mayor's office to ask for permission to do this since he took office. We're glad they finally decided to do that."
Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. announced on Feb. 19 that his office had received authorization from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to use $3 million of a Justice Assistance grant to rehire 35 officers for 17 months.
Bartlett credited U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, for expediting the approval process for the request after a week when most federal officials were out of the office after a blizzard hit the area.
"I just spoke with (Tulsa Police) Chief (Chuck) Jordan, and we are both very pleased to be able to get the process started to rehire 35 officers to our fine police department," Bartlett said on Feb. 19. "I appreciate every effort Congressman Sullivan and his staff made to assist with this grant."
The opportunity to rehire the officers is expected to lessen the impact of the recent layoff of 124 officers from the department in the wake of the city's budget crisis. FOP members overwhelmingly voted to reject a proposal from the city that would have saved those jobs but resulted in salary and benefits reductions for all officers, leading to the layoffs.
Evans said the rehiring will be done on a seniority basis, with more experienced officers being offered the chance to return to work first, but he doesn't know what the timetable is for those officers to get back on the job.
"Hopefully, it'll be immediate," he said. "We need the help to keep citizens safe."
Many laid-off Tulsa officers have been approached by recruiters from other departments around the country who are looking to hire new officers. Evans said he wasn't sure how many former Tulsa officers have decided to pursue those opportunities, but he said a recent job fair for those who were laid off attracted Dallas police officials, who are looking to hire 300 new officers. Evans said it was his understanding that 70 laid-off Tulsa officers are intent on seeking employment there.
Many of those officers will be headed south to undergo a battery of entry tests this weekend, Evans said, with an eye toward entering the Dallas academy early next year.
Meanwhile, Tulsa Police officials announced last week that a temporary change in the department's response to auto collisions was being reversed.
Initially, the department had announced that because of the layoffs, officers would not be responding to non-injury collisions until a manpower redistribution and a restructuring plan could be evaluated. The department returned to its former policy on Feb. 16, meaning officers will respond to all collisions on public roadways in the city limits; although some collisions on private property will be referred to alternative reporting methods.
No More Choo-Choos
The sound of blaring train horns has been part of life in north downtown Tulsa since the area's founding--but no more, thanks to the completion of a project that designates the area as a quiet zone.
The installation of new railroad crossing gates where the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad intersects with Greenwood Avenue, Elgin Avenue, Cheyenne Avenue, Elwood Avenue and Guthrie Avenue means the area is now a sealed corridor, requiring railroad engineers not to blow their horns except in an emergency.
The project received funding of $750,000 through the 2006 Third Penny Sales Tax and a federal appropriation of nearly $1.5 million. Instead of two short arms, the new "quad gates" have four long arms that prevent vehicles from driving between them on to the railroad tracks. The project also includes a loop detector system that will detect a vehicle inside the gates and allow it to exit the railroad crossing before the gate arms come down.
Supporters of the project believe it will help attract residents to an area in which a number of loft-living projects are planned, in the works or already in existence.
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