Okla. sheriff's office plans reform after scathing audit

The review was ordered after reserve deputy Robert Bates fatally shot Eric Harris

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma sheriff's office that came under scrutiny after a volunteer deputy fatally shot an unarmed man proposed sweeping changes to its personnel and record-keeping practices on Thursday, in response to an audit accusing the agency of a "system-wide failure of leadership and supervision."

Interim Sheriff Michelle Robinette said the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office plans to buy a new records management system and create new administrative positions, including training director, open records manager and a community engagement supervisor, among other additions to its 2017 fiscal year budget and strategic plan.

The Texas-based Community Safety Institute report released Feb. 25 determined that the Tulsa agency has been in "perceptible decline" for more than a decade.

The review was ordered after reserve deputy Robert Bates fatally shot Eric Harris during a gun-sales sting last April. Bates, who was a friend of ex-Sheriff Stanley Glanz and donated thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the agency, resigned after the shooting. He has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge, saying he mistakenly pulled a handgun while reaching for a stun gun. Bates goes to trial next month.

Weeks after Harris was killed, an internal memo from 2009 was released by the Harris' family attorney that questions Bates' qualifications. The agency memo indicates that superiors knew Bates didn't have enough training for the position but pressured others to look the other way because of his relationship with the sheriff and the agency.

The release of the memo led thousands of citizens to sign a petition last summer calling for a grand jury to investigate the sheriff's office and its alleged mismanagement.

In September, jurors indicted Glanz on two misdemeanor charges. He resigned effective Nov. 1. The former sheriff is due back in court on March 11.

The institute's report noted that shortcomings in the reserve deputy program were just the most-visible signs of trouble within the agency.

"Many reserves feel they are exempt from or do not have to follow various policies because of who they are or who they are friends with in the agency," the report said. "This informal system violates all chain of command within the organization and undermines the supervisor's authority, causing dissent within the organization."

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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