By Elaine Magliaro
Omar Villafranca of CBS News reported last week that a 2009 investigation conducted by the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office had concluded that deputies in the department had voiced concerns about Robert Bates’s behavior in the field years ago. Bates, 73, was the Tulsa reserve deputy who accidentally shot Eric Harris with a gun instead of a Taser on April 2nd. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter charges in Harris’s death. Villafranca said that there had been allegations that Bates was not properly trained ever since that fatal incident.
According to a 2009 internal report that was released on Friday by the attorneys for Harris, “Two high-ranking members of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department created a culture of intimidation that allowed the wealthy reserve deputy involved in a controversial police shooting…to advance through the ranks without proper training.”
CBS News learned that in 2009, the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office launched an internal investigation to find out if Bates received special treatment during training and while working as a reserve deputy. They also investigated whether supervisors pressured training officers on Bates’ behalf.
The investigation concluded Bates’ training was questionable and that he was given preferential treatment.
The investigation found that deputies voiced concerns about Bates’ behavior in the field, almost from the very beginning. Bates reportedly used his personal car while on duty and made unauthorized vehicle stops. When confronted Bates said that he could do what he wanted, and that anyone who had a problem with him should go see the sheriff.
James Queally (Los Angeles Times) said that the “nearly 300-page document…contains interviews with several sheriff’s officers who said they were repeatedly threatened by Sheriff’s Department Chief Tim Albin and Capt. Tom Huckeby for criticizing Bates.”
In the conclusion, the author of the report wrote, “Policy has been violated, and continues to be violated, by both Captain Tom Huckeby and Chief Deputy Tim Albin with regard to special treatment shown to Reserve Deputy Robert Bates with regard to his field training, and with Captain Huckeby and Chief Albin creating an atmosphere in which employees were intimidated to fail to adhere to policies in a manner which benefits Reserve Deputy Bates.”
In a short statement, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Department said the release of the document was unauthorized and added that the existence of the internal report highlights the department’s willingness to investigate allegations of misconduct.
Bates, 73, shot Harris during an undercover sting. The reserve deputy fired one shot, killing Harris, who was unarmed and struggling with another officer on the ground. Bates has been charged with manslaughter and faces up to four years in prison.
Bates contended he reached for his stun gun, and can be heard yelling “Taser” in video of the incident, but accidentally reached for his firearm. In an interview with the “Today” show last week, Bates demonstrated what happened during the shooting, but his explanation drew skepticism from law enforcement experts who spoke with the Los Angeles Times.
On Monday, Jarrell Wade of Tulsa World reported that Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz had announced the resignation of Undersheriff Tim Albin in the wake of the released documents which allege that Albin had “intimidated employees to elevate a reserve deputy in the program.” Glanz was quoted as saying, “Given the gravity of the current situation … he agreed that maybe it’s time for a change.” Glanz added that the “resignation will be effective at the end of the week.”
“I will continue to examine my organization, and there will be more changes in the coming days as I work to restore the integrity to the Sheriff’s Office which the public has come to expect,” Glanz said.
Oklahoma deputy who mistook gun for Taser not properly trained, report says (Los Angeles Times)