Lawmaker seeks independent review of reserve deputy program 

click to enlarge Robert Bates
  • Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP
  • This Tuesday, April 14, 2015 photo provided by the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Office shows Robert Bates. The 73-year-old Oklahoma reserve sheriff's deputy, who authorities said fatally shot a suspect after confusing his stun gun and handgun, was booked into the county jail Tuesday on a manslaughter charge. Bates surrendered to the Tulsa County Jail and was released after posting $25,000 bond.

A state lawmaker called Thursday for an independent review of Tulsa's reserve deputy program as more questions arose about the training of a 73-year-old volunteer officer who says he accidentally shot a suspect to death while the man was being held down by others.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office said it would conduct an internal investigation, but Rep. Mike Shelton fears a growing mistrust of police after a series of high-profile killings by law officers.

"There are too many variables here for me and anyone else to believe that this investigation is going to be impartial," said Shelton, a Democrat from Oklahoma City. "We simply cannot afford to have the public's trust in our law enforcement eroded any further. We need to remove the appearance of personal and political biases from this case."

Reserve deputy Bob Bates has said he mistakenly pulled out a handgun rather than a stun gun on April 2 as Eric Harris lay on the ground after running from deputies conducting a sting operation. Video from the scene captured Bates apologizing for shooting Harris, who was being detained on suspicion that he tried to sell guns to an undercover officer.

"Oh, I shot him! I'm sorry," said Bates, who has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Sheriff's spokesman Maj. Shannon Clark said Harris' death prompted an evaluation of the reserve deputy system.

"As with any critical incident, we are doing an internal review of our program and policy to determine if any changes need to take place," Clark said.

But Shelton suggested that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the state attorney general's office should step in to help assure Harris' family and the public that any probe is unbiased.

Bates, an insurance executive, has been a volunteer reserve deputy since 2007 or 2008 and served as Sheriff Stanley Glanz's re-election campaign manager in 2012. He has also been a generous donor, giving cars and equipment to the sheriff's office.

Harris' family has questioned whether Bates was sufficiently trained. Glanz has said the department cannot locate some of Bates' certification records, and the Tulsa World reported Thursday that sheriff's office supervisors who refused to fudge Bates' paperwork were transferred to other jobs.

In a video interview posted on the newspaper's website, Tulsa World reporters said their sources had told them Bates did not perform well enough at a shooting range to be certified as a law officer but that supervisors were told to approve his performance anyway.

The newspaper reported Thursday that supervisors were told to give Bates credit for field training he never took and firearms certifications for which he was not eligible.

The paper also said at least three of Bates' supervisors were transferred for refusing to go along with the requests. The newspaper said it consulted multiple sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, but it gave no indication how those sources were familiar with the situation.

In a statement after the shooting, Bates said he was certified as an advanced reserve deputy in 2007. The sheriff's office said Bates joined in 2008.

The newspaper reported that Glanz told a Tulsa radio station that Bates had been certified to use three weapons, including the gun he fired at Harris. However, Glanz said the sheriff's office has not been able to find the paperwork on those certifications and that the deputy who prepared the paperwork now works for the Secret Service.

"We can't find the records that she supposedly turned in," Glanz said. "So we are going to talk to her to find out if for sure he's been qualified with those" weapons.

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