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Gov. Stitt praises police, criticizes Cherokee Nation in Tulsa visit

Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks at Tulsa City Hall on Friday, May 17, 2024.
Elizabeth Caldwell
Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks at Tulsa City Hall on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Speaking on Friday at the real time information center in Tulsa, where police monitor public camera feeds from around the city, Stitt praised Tulsa officers for coping with changes.

“The McGirt decision has kind of thrown them a curveball, but they’ve done a really good job trying to keep the community safe,” said Stitt.

McGirt v. Oklahoma affirmed tribal sovereignty in eastern Oklahoma. The 2020 ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court case brought into question the legality of city police enforcing laws against tribal citizens.

Recently, the Cherokee Nation and the state have struggled to reach an agreement on a car tag compact set to expire at year's end. Stitt characterized the lag as imperiling law enforcement because they aren’t able to check driving records before conducting traffic stops.

In a statement, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. refuted Stitt, saying the tribe participates in the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (OLETS).

“Clearly, Governor Stitt is using his Friday press briefings as political attacks to secure a Cherokee Nation tribal car compact and the Cherokee Nation is not biting,” said Hoskin.

Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault said his officers regularly use the OLETS database to identify tribal citizens.

"There has never been a safety concern accessing or using this information which is available to law enforcement agencies," wrote Chennault in a statement.

Stitt estimated the Cherokee Nation owes about $5.63 million in unpaid PlatePay tolls that are calculated by license plate captures.

Outgoing Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum has said he’s eager to work with tribal partners, but Stitt said Bynum would not be able to enter into an agreement with tribes without consent from the governor and the state legislature.

On the subject of Tulsa’s mayor, Stitt said he doesn’t have a preference for who serves after Bynum.

“Do I have a pick for Tulsa’s next mayor? No, no, I’m not going to get into that, so no.”

Tulsa will elect its next mayor in August. Candidates for the position include state Rep. Monroe Nichols, Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith, City Councilor Jayme Fowler, and businessman Casey Bradford.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher
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