Tulsa sheriff limits volunteers’ duties after shooting
Tulsa, Okla. — Reserve deputies with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office can no longer patrol alone following the release of documents that question whether a volunteer who fatally shot an unarmed man in the back was adequately trained.
Spokesman Shannon Clark said Thursday that the office is temporarily limiting its reserves during an internal audit of training records of its approximately 130 reserve deputies. The review was announced after attorneys for the dead man’s family released internal memos from 2009 that indicate officers were worried that reserve deputy Robert Bates hadn’t completed required training and that administrators were silencing criticisms of the volunteer.
Bates, 73, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris, who was unarmed. Harris was already on the ground, with two deputies on top of him, when Bates drew his weapon and fired a shot into Harris’ back. Bates is white and Harris was black, but the victim’s brother has said he does not believe race played a role in the shooting.
Bates has said he confused his handgun and stun gun after Harris ran from authorities during a sting operation involving gun sales. Bates was one of nine officers at the scene.
Clark said advanced reserves, which is the highest volunteer level, can no longer patrol alone but will participate in other law enforcement work. Most of the force’s volunteers, including Bates, have advanced status.
An investigation detailed in the 2009 memo, which includes interviews with several high-ranking officers inside the sheriff’s office, found Bates received special treatment and inadequate training. It quoted two deputies as saying they “felt Bates’ field operations were a little scary.”
Clark said the office isn’t working on a timeline and that the review will be thorough.