Friday, April 24, 2015

Training of Deputy in Tulsa Was Faulted in a Report
New York Times
APRIL 24, 2015

In an internal investigation six years ago into the volunteer reserve deputy who shot an unarmed man this month, officers in the Tulsa County sheriff’s office said that he did not have the training or skills required for his post, but commanders told them to ignore such concerns.

The investigator’s report on the 2009 inquiry was published Friday by The Tulsa World. Shortly after, the district attorney, Stephen A. Kunzweiler, released a statement saying that in light of new information, “I have been in contact with independent law enforcement agencies regarding further investigation into these matters.” A person briefed on the matter, who was not authorized to discuss it on the record, said that was a reference to the report and other documents subpoenaed by the district attorney.

Mr. Kunzweiler has charged the reserve deputy, Robert C. Bates, 73, with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of Eric C. Harris, 44, on April 2, as he was being arrested for an illegal gun sale. Mr. Bates, who is white, and the sheriff’s office have said he accidentally fired his pistol instead of his Taser as Mr. Harris, who was black, was held to the ground by other deputies.

Concerns have been raised about whether training requirements were overlooked, or even falsified, for Mr. Bates, because of his close friendship with the sheriff, Stanley Glanz. Mr. Bates’s lawyer and Officer Glanz have denied the claims. They did not respond to requests for comment Friday and the reason for the 2009 inquiry was not known.

Officer Glanz said Monday that the F.B.I.’s Oklahoma field office had told him that it had “found no wrongdoing at the sheriff’s office.” But the F.B.I. office said that it had found only that there was no basis for a civil rights investigation; it would neither confirm nor deny that it was investigating claims related to Mr. Bates’s qualifications.

Reserve deputies are required to have at least 240 hours of training. To reach the highest of three levels — the one attained by Mr. Bates, where reservists can patrol and make arrests without supervision —volunteers also must complete 480 hours of supervised field training.

The sheriff’s office was able to document only 72 hours of field training, according to the 2009 investigator, a sergeant in the agency, who interviewed several officers in the department. A corporal who oversaw Mr. Bates’s training said in the report that it totaled 328 hours and that he was told by commanders that that was enough.

The corporal also said those commanders intimidated him into signing memos that he did not write, stating that Mr. Bates was fully capable of doing the job. The corporal said that he did not believe Mr. Bates was qualified, adding, “I would have asked him to do remedial training.”

In another interview, the report says, a sergeant told the investigator that he doubted Mr. Bates had been fully trained, and that other deputies voiced concerns “about how Bates operated in the field,” including his inability to perform the basic function of communicating with a dispatcher by radio. He said his superiors told him to overlook his concerns.

Another sergeant, who supervised the reserve deputy program, said Mr. Bates broke rules, like conducting traffic stops on his own before he was authorized. When he reported the matter to his bosses, he was told to drop it.

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