External report highlights list of TCSO problems

Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 06:58:39-05

TULSA – Almost a year later, the assessment into the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has been released, revealing certain structural issues within the organization.

The most common issues identified in the report were lack of training and a lack of clear policies.

Below is a break down of what we know from the assessment conducted by the Community Safety Institute in Texas.

Why was the assessment conducted?

The assessment was requested after 2009 memo was released revealing that former reserve deputy Robert Bates received special treatment and raised concerns over the falsification of his training records.

His inadequate training came to light after the death of Eric Harris. Bates fatally shot Harris during a foot pursuit in 2015. He pled not guilty to charges of manslaughter, claiming he mistook his gun for his Taser.

The Community Safety Institute publicized the assessment Thursday. The report was to examine the department's use of force, the reserve deputy program and the way the sheriff's office is organized.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Tulsa County Sheriff's Office 

What do the documents say overall?

The report shows a list of problems in leadership and policies at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. It says over the past decade there's been a "systematic and institutionalized" trend to ignore policy.

They dissected each facet of the department and time and again reported a lack of training and a lack of clear policies, including deadly incidents.


What were their findings in the death of Eric Harris?

The report says the sheriff's office response to the deadly deputy-involved shooting is complicated and confusing. In particular, the incident with former reserve deputy Robert Bates who allegedly mistook his gun for a Taser and fatally shot an unarmed suspect named Eric Harris. 

The report has recommendations regarding training with Tasers and points out lack in oversight, training and communication.

The recommendations also say sheriff leadership should apply policies fairly and not show bias. It goes on to say that the department must adequately train officers and keep records of that training as well as keep policies clear for how to deal with situations, in  particular officer-involved shootings.

Part of the controversy surrounding the Bates case was inadequate documentation of his training. Due to that aspect of the case, a portion of the assessment was devoted to how TCSO maintains records.

What were the findings in relation to TCSO records keeping?

The audit performed by the Community Safety Institute (CSI) reveals the agency has major problems with managing and storing important records. Auditors found no one person is in charge.

The records manual is so vague, employees end up making their own decisions on what documents to save or destroy, according to the audit.

CSI analyzed the records unit itself and found it does not process, store or file records. Instead, it provides only basic fingerprinting services and sells such documents as incident and arrest reports. The audit even suggested renaming the records unit "customer service."

A report from the accrediting agency, CALEA, recommended TCSO store records in a locked area with access restricted to authorized records personnel and administrators. Instead, different units at TCSO simply handle their own records such as arrest reports, criminal case filings, as well as jail and court documents.

The audit also reveals Sheriff Glanz's own policy is so vague, it does not require employees to follow federal requirements on records management and storage. Nor are there any written policy available to the public on access to open records. It is a misdemeanor to violate the state Open Records Act.

What are the most noteworthy findings?

  • Assessors believe TCSO could generate more than $2.3 million through increased revenue and savings. 
  • Current deputies are doing things outside of their work description, making them less effective in providing public safety.
  • No one is directly in charge of over seeing TCSO records or open records requests.
  • 90 percent of staff members said they do not believe the organization communicates well.
  • Top sheriff's officials need to work in the same physical building to increase communication.

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