U.S. Politics and the Economy

Police Corruption in Oklahoma

Unjust police killing of Tulsa man, Eric Harris, reveals a deep and dangerous scandal in Oklahoma

By Shaun King

On its face, the police murder of Eric Harris, a 44-year-old father in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was wrong. Surrounded by police, Harris had surrendered and was on the ground when Bob Bates, a deputy, claims to have accidentally shot him with a handgun instead of his Taser. For what was being called a mistake, Bates was charged with second-degree manslaughter.

All by itself, with no more details, that story was bad, but when the video was released showing Harris nervously gasping for air, screaming that he couldn’t breathe, and asking why he was shot—only to have another officer, Joe Byars, tell him, “fuck your breath”—it became increasingly clear that what we had was not only a mistake, but something deeply inhumane and troubling on a scale that the country wasn’t quite prepared for.

But, it turns out, the true story is more scandalous than any of us could’ve ever imagined.

Not only is Bates a fake volunteer police officer (Tulsa calls them “reserve deputies”), it turns out Bates was lavishing the department with international cruises in the Bahamas and Mexico, took regular fishing trips with the lead sheriff, Sheriff Stanley Glanz, and also was the chairman of the sheriff’s recent campaign.

“‘Bob Bates came on board because he had all this money,’ one former reserve deputy said, adding that the sheriff and other higher-ups would ‘go on these cruises in the Bahamas and in Mexico all the time.’

“‘[Bates] foots the bill,’ the deputy added. ‘The sheriff just gave him free rein because he was treating him right. He bought his way into this position.’

“Another former full-time deputy said Bates was ‘getting glad-handed’ around the office because of his wealth.

“‘This is your typical Southern good ol’ boys system,’ he said, adding that before the shooting Bates planned to take Glanz on a fishing trip to Florida.”

It gets deeper. Now, not wanting to go down with a sinking ship, people inside of the department are talking, as you can read beneath the fold.

“Supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to falsify a reserve deputy’s training records, giving him credit for field training he never took and firearms certifications he should not have received, sources told the Tulsa World.
At least three of reserve deputy Robert Bates’ supervisors were transferred after refusing to sign off on his state-required training, multiple sources speaking on condition of anonymity told the World.”

Now Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who went on fishing trips and international cruises paid for by Bates, is claiming he can’t find the paperwork verifying the certification Bates was required to have to even be out with officers the day he killed Harris.

This isn’t just disorganization.

This scandal cost Harris his life. It’s increasingly clear that Bates, who also purchased police vehicles for the department, was given so much freedom because of the gifts he showered on the department, that he felt like he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Beyond being 73 years old, he had no business even attempting to Taser a subdued Harris—not to mention shoot and kill him.

Heads need to roll here. The Justice Department must intervene. This department absolutely cannot investigate itself.

Daily Kos, April 16, 2015