Last week, yet another unarmed Black man was turned into a hashtag when he was killed by police. This time, it was Eric Harris who fled police and was allegedly shot dead when Robert Bates, a 73-year-old Tulsa County reserve deputy mistook his service weapon for a taser. Yes, it wasn’t even an official police officer that killed Harris.
Bates is said to be a “highly regarded member of the Reserve Deputy Program.” He was a police officer for a year from 1964-1965, but went on to become a successful insurance company executive. He joined the Reserve Deputy Program in 2008 and has since donated multiple vehicles, guns and stun guns since. “There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program,” said Maj. Shannon Clark. “Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.”
There are three levels to the unpaid Reserve Deputy Program in Tulsa: basic, intermediate and advanced. Bates is an advanced level reserve deputy, meaning he completed “320 hours of training with CLEET (the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) as well as have completed 480 hours of the TCSO Field Training Officer Program” and “must complete 40 hours of service every six months.” According to Clark, this means that Bates “can do anything a full-time deputy can do.”
Clark says that Bates was assigned to the the Violent Crimes Task Force, but his role in a situation such as the tragedy of Eric Harris would be one of support, meaning he would keep notes and do surveillance and such. Usually, the 55 reserve deputies in the Tulsa PD work events and bolster security during the shopping seasons. Chief Chuck Jordan says the only time he remembers reserves being used on a task force was when a serial rapist was on the loose last summer.
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