Training of Volunteer Deputy Questioned

     (CN) – The training of a volunteer Tulsa sheriff’s deputy who shot an unarmed black man to death is being called into question amid allegations of records tampering.
     Robert C. Bates, 73, a white volunteer reserve deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department, was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence. He is free on $25,000 bond.
     The April 2 death of Eric Courtney Harris, 44, was recorded on a deputy’s body camera and is one of the latest examples of police violence against black men .
     In the video released by the sheriff’s office last Friday, Harris is shown running away from deputies as they pull up to his vehicle. He is chased down, held to the ground and a single gunshot is heard. Bates immediately apologizes as Harris screams that he has been shot. As Harris screams that he can’t breathe, an officer says, “Fuck your breath.”
     Police said Harris was being arrested in an undercover investigation of illegal gun sales.
     Three of Bates’ supervisors were transferred after they refused to sign papers that he had received state-required training, The Tulsa World reported Wednesday.
     The unidentified deputies were ordered to falsify Bates’ training records to give him credit for field training he never took, and for firearms certifications he should not have received, multiple anonymous sources told the newspaper.
     As an “advanced reserve” deputy, Bates should have received 480 hours of the Field Training Officer program. An attorney for the Sheriff’s Office declined The World’s request for records showing which supervisors signed off on Bates’ training.
     In a statement to investigators, Bates said he has been involved in more than 100 assignments, had attended a five-day homicide investigation school in Dallas and was trained in “active shooter response” by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona.
     Bates, a wealthy insurance agent, has donated money and equipment in addition to his time to the sheriff’s department. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma criticized Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz this week for “buy a badge” practices that allow “favored friends and wealthy donors to Oklahoma sheriffs to carry guns and badges as reserve deputies” with far less training and experience than professional deputies.
     “Eric Harris is dead today as the result of an utterly reckless program that allows donors to buy a badge and play police officer with real guns and real bullets,” said ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Eric Keisel.
     “Oklahomans deserve police departments that are staffed by professionals and who are financed with our tax dollars and held accountable to the public. If someone wants to volunteer to help their fellow citizens cross the street during special events like the State Fair, we have no objection, but to give volunteers weapons and put them in situations like the one that ended the life of Eric Harris is dangerous and foolish.”
     Keisel also criticized the “disgusting” response and “callous and dehumanizing approach” of the sheriff’s deputy who swore at Harris as he lost his breath after being shot.
     ACLU of Oklahoma legal director Brady Henderson asked why Bates tried to use a Taser at all.
     “When Harris was already being held on the ground and no longer fleeing deputies, why was it necessary to launch metal hooks carrying 50,000 volts into his body? If Bob Bates had reached for his Taser instead of his gun, he might not have committed a manslaughter, but his use of force likely would not have been reasonable, rational, or legal,” Henderson said.
     “What happened to Eric Harris was not just ‘a mistake,’ it was the result of a series of choices that show a reckless disregard for human dignity and human life.”

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