Scoring 31.56 in 2020, the Justice theme explores disparities in arrests, law enforcement workforce, officer use of force, and violence. Using data to better understand the issues in policing, safety and violence enables city and law enforcement leaders and the public to work together to objectively examine trends and patterns to help identify root causes and develop strategies to reduce disparities.

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Oklahoma currently has the highest female incarceration rate and the second highest total and male rates, not only in the country, but also in the world. Consequently, initiatives to advance criminal justice reform have been taking place in Oklahoma recently, including one that has resulted in the commutation of sentences of hundreds of individuals over the past year.

Extensive research finds that African Americans experience disproportionate levels of policing, stops, searches, issuing of citations, use of force, convictions, sentencing severity, use of alternatives to incarceration, arrests for failure to pay fines and fees, and youth sentenced as adults, not just in Tulsa but across the nation, that do not align with higher levels or severity of crime committed.  Systemic racism and implicit bias throughout the entire criminal justice system have been found to significantly contribute to these disproportionate levels.

Sources: Pierson, Emma, Camelia Simoiu, Jan Overgoor, Sam Corbett-Davies, Daniel Jenson, Amy Shoemaker, Vignesh Ramachandran, Phoebe Barghouty, Cheryl Phillips, Raci Shroff, and Sharad Goel. 2020. “A Large-scale Analysis of Racial Disparities in Police Stops across the United States.” Nature Human Behaviour, May 4, 2020,; Human Rights Watch. 2019. “Get on the Ground!”: Policing, Poverty, and Racial Inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”; Vielehr, Peter S. 2019. “Racial Bias in Police Officers Discretionary Search Decisions and Associated Community Mental Health Consequences: Evidence from Nashville, Tennessee.” PhD diss., Vanderbilt University;  Hinton, Elizabeth, LeShae Henderson, and Cindy Reed. 2018. “An Unjust Burden: The Disparate Treatment of Black Americans in the Criminal Justice System.” Vera Institute of Justice Evidence Brief, May 2018; Balko, Radley. 2018. “There’s Overwhelming Evidence that the Criminal-Justice System is Racist. Here’s the Proof.” Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2018; The Sentencing Project. 2018. Report of the Sentencing Project to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance: Regarding Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System; The Sentencing Project. 2015. Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System;  The Sentencing Project. 2014. Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Juvenile Justice System; Eberhardt, Jennifer L. 2019. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do. New York: Viking.

THE BELOW INTERACTIVE GRAPHS display three years of Tulsa Equality Indicator scores, divided into the three Topics for this Theme, and three Indicators for each Topic. The lines represent each Indicators’ scores for three years, allowing the viewer to observe how each score has changed over time and to compare the scores of different Indicators within a Theme. Hover over the icons to see metadata for that Indicator including its equality score and change score (when available). More on how we measure equality >


With a 2020 equality score of 36.67, the Arrests topic includes analysis of racial disparities in juvenile and adult arrests in Tulsa and a comparison of Tulsa to the national average in female arrests.

The data indicate that African American youth are three times as likely and African American adults are two and a half times as likely to be arrested as their White counterparts in Tulsa. Analysis of national crime rates by race do not align with these disproportionate arrest rates – meaning that higher arrest rates of African Americans are not justified by proportionally  higher crime rates.[1] Results from the 2018 Gallup-Tulsa CitiVoice Index show that African Americans have disproportionately greater negative contact with law enforcement.[2] The survey found that less than a quarter of African American Tulsans strongly or very strongly agree that the Tulsa Police Department treats people like them fairly, compared to 62% of White, and 49% of Hispanic/Latinx Tulsans.

Females are arrested in Tulsa at a rate twice the national average, a situation that contributes to the state’s exceedingly high rate of female incarceration. As with males, women and girls of color are disproportionately represented among arrested females.

[1] Hinton, Henderson, and Reed. “An Unjust Burden.” Vera Institute of Justice Evidence Brief, May 2018; Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting. 2018. “Table 43: Arrests by Race and Ethnicity, 2018.” 2018 Crime in the United States.;  Morgan, Rachel E., and Barbara A. Oudekerk. 2019. “Criminal Victimization, 2018.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Sept. 2019.

[2] Gallup. 2018. Building a Thriving Tulsa: 2018 Gallup-Tulsa Citivoice Index Results.

Law Enforcement

At 22.00, the Law Enforcement topic score is the second lowest of all 18 topics in the report this year. Included in the topic are two indicators focusing on police department workforce disparities and one focusing on disparities in officer use of force.

Although showing a small improvement this year, Hispanic/Latinx Tulsans continue to be substantially underrepresented in Tulsa Police Department’s (TPD) workforce. In order to have equal representation to Whites, the rate of Hispanic/Latinx participation would have to experience a fivefold increase. Women also continue to be underrepresented in the department’s workforce, requiring more than a threefold rate increase to catch up to that of men. The TPD is actively taking steps to increase recruitment of women and people of color. Greater diversity in a police force tends to increase the level of trust between officers and the public.

Racial disparity in use of force—which may or may not result in death—is both a national and a local concern as African Americans are significantly more likely to be the subject of use of force by police than are persons of other races all across the nation. In Tulsa, African Americans experience officer use of force at a rate six times that of Hispanics/Latinx, and two and a half times that of Whites, as a share of total population by race. Between the 2019 and 2020 Equality Indicator reporting years, all racial groups in Tulsa experienced a decrease in both use of force incidents and rate of use of force per 1,000 residents. However, because Equality Indicators measures relative rates between two groups, the significantly greater decrease for the Hispanic/Latinx community compared to the Black community resulted in a lower equality score for Indicator 33 in this year’s report.

There isn’t a standardization of data across police departments on how use of force is measured, nor is there a scientific consensus on how the rate is calculated.[1] Across the country, use of force rate calculations vary in both numerator and denominator across analyses. For example, the numerator may be number of use of force subjects, number of use of force measures, or number of officers involved; the denominator may be jurisdiction population, contacts with police, arrests, or arrests involving a weapon.

Two valid ways to measure officer use of force include calculating the rate of subjects per population and per arrests. Tulsa Equality Indicators has chosen to use the rate of subjects per population method for calculating officer use of force because it serves to reflect the impact on the entire community in terms of public safety, physical and mental health, community-level trauma, and trust-building with the police force.[2] This method of calculation allows for a holistic view of a disparity for population groups or communities, which aligns with the purposes of Equality Indicators.

The second way to measure use of force is to use the rate of subjects per arrests. This is also an important calculation as it looks at a subset of a community—persons arrested.For Indicator 33 in this report, the officer use of force per the population is the method that contributes to the overall equality score. For reference and comparison to Indicator 33, the equality scores for use of force measured using arrests as the denominator are included in the table. Review of the data indicates that the highest rate of officer use of force per arrests in Tulsa is experienced by the Hispanic/Latinx population. However, due to the high percentage of arrest records with unknown ethnicity, Whites (the group with lowest rate) and Blacks (the group with the second highest rate) were used as the comparison groups for this alternative method of calculation.

[1] Garner, Joel H., Matthew J. Hickman, Ronald W. Malega, Christopher D. Maxwell. 2018. “Progress Toward National Estimates of Police Use of Force.” PLoS ONE 13(2), Feb. 15, 2018; Bureau of Justice Statistics. 1996. National Data Collection on Police Use of Force.

[2] Ross, Cody T., Bruce Winterhalder, and Richard McElreath. 2018. “Resolution of Apparent Paradoxes in the Race-Specific Frequency of Use-of-Force by Police.” Palgrave Communications, 2018, 4:61; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 2018. Police Use of Force: An Examination of Modern Policing Practices. Nov. 2018; Obasogie, Osagie K. and Zachary Newman. 2017. “Police Violence, Use of Force Policies, and Public Health.” American Journal of Law and Medicine, 43 (2017): 279-295; “Addressing Law Enforcement Violence as a Public Health Issue.” American Public Health Association, Nov. 13, 2018; Krieger, Nancy, Jarvis T. Chen, Pamela D. Waterman, Mathew V. Kiang, and Justin Feldman. 2015. “Police Killings and Police Deaths are Public Health Data and Can Be Counted.” PLoS Med 12(12), Dec. 8, 2015; Cooper, Hannah, Lisa Moore, Sofia Gruskin, and Nancy Krieger. 2004. “Characterizing Perceived Police Violence: Implications for Public Health.” American Journal of Public Health, July 2004; Gomez, Marisela B. 2016. “Policing, Community Fragmentation , and Public Health: Observations from Baltimore.” Journal of Urban Health, Vol. 93, Suppl 1.

Safety & Violence

The Safety and Violence topic scored 36.00 this year, down 9.67 points from the baseline; this was the greatest decrease in score of all topics in the report. That decrease is derived from increases in disparity in child abuse and neglect and in homicide victimization.

Child abuse and neglect is one of the indicators which assesses the disparity between the rates of Tulsa County and the national average. The rate of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Tulsa County is nearly twice the national average. This discrepancy aligns with research showing that Oklahoma ranks highest among states in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), with child abuse and neglect making up a substantial part of that measure.[1] ACE research finds that high levels of childhood trauma are correlated with increased high risk behaviors during youth and young adulthood, and poorer health outcomes in adulthood.[2]

Domestic violence spans all races and socioeconomic classes. Victims with access to fewer resources to escape the violence are typically the ones more likely to call 911 for assistance.  Victims with higher incomes often have personal resources necessary to depart a volatile environment and therefore may not be as likely to rely on 911 assistance. Fear of deportation can also prevent many immigrant victims from accessing help.

[1] United Health Foundation. 2020. America’s Health Rankings: Health of Women and Children.

[2] Centers for Disease Control. 2020. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

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Measuring progress towards greater justice and equity in the City of Tulsa