- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

Whether supervisors of a Tulsa County volunteer deputy charged in the death of an unarmed suspect will also face charges depends on whether their alleged offenses are criminal or just the result of poor management.

Questions about management of reserve deputies at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office have surfaced since 73-year-old reserve deputy Robert Bates fatally shot Eric Harris on April 2. Bates, who is charged with second-degree manslaughter, said he confused his stun gun with his handgun.

Attorneys for Harris’ family have since released memos from 2009 that indicate office administrators were silencing criticisms of Bates. District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who charged Bates, said an outside review is warranted and that an agency is investigating the Sheriff’s Office - but it is unclear what agency that is or what charges could be filed.

And it’s possible than any mismanagement wasn’t criminal, but just a result of poor decisions.

“If we start criminalizing bad management practices everyone’s boss would be in jail,” David Klinger, associate criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis said Friday. “One of the reasons we have civil litigation is to burrow through things. We can’t criminalize everything.”

Bates is a longtime friend to Sheriff Stanley Glanz, serving as his insurance agent for 25 years and his re-election campaign manager in 2012.

As an elected official, Glanz could be ousted by voters regardless. Glanz, a close friend of Bates, has declined repeated interview requests, including on Friday.

On Monday, Glanz announced the resignation of his second-in-command, who, according to a 2009 internal investigation, had been aware that Bates was inadequately trained but pressured officers to look the other way. Undersheriff Tim Albin had been with the department since Glanz first took office in 1989.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has said it’s not investigating, saying it’s waiting for someone to ask it to intervene. Glanz is among the seven commissioners who steer the agency.

A lawyer for the dead man’s family has said the FBI and Justice Department asked him for documents early on, but it’s unclear if Justice is still investigating. Bates is white and Harris was black, but the victim’s brother has said he does not believe race played a role in the shooting and the FBI has said a civil rights investigation wasn’t warranted.

Officials with both agencies have said they aren’t allowed to confirm or deny if there is an investigation into the Sheriff’s Office.

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said the agency does numerous investigations into official misconduct each year, but that it must first be asked by an official such as the attorney general, the governor or a local district attorney.

Bob Blakemore, another attorney representing the Harris family, said an OSBI investigation “wouldn’t hurt,” but said he’s more interested in action by federal officials.

“The further away from Sheriff Glanz’s influence we can get the better, as far as who is investigating this,” Blakemore said.

Klinger said it may not matter whether an investigation is underway, since any criminal misconduct would likely come out in a civil lawsuit.


Associated Press reporters Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City and Justin Juozapavicius in Tulsa contributed to this report.

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