- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Officials have replaced two off-duty law enforcement officers accused of handcuffing abused and neglected children at a state-run emergency shelter and threatening youths with pepper spray and stun guns.

Spokeswoman Sheree Powell for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services said other security personnel have been hired. She told The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1J5HtZZ ) that the department doesn’t support the use of mechanical restraints and that the officers no longer work with the agency.

Department officials became aware of the claims in mid-April when a complaint was filed to an oversight agency, the Commission on Children and Youth. Staff at the Pauline E. Mayer Shelter reported that they felt they couldn’t stop the officers in matters “involving discipline and control” of their residents.

The commission also investigated the complaint itself and wrote in a letter to Human Services Director Ed Lake that “a total of nine children from the ages of 7 to 17 had been placed in handcuffs by these two off-duty officers since November 1, 2014.”

“In addition, they have threatened children with use of pepper spray and Tasers to gain control of the situation,” stated the letter, which didn’t name the officers.

The problem at the shelter comes as the state department is working to meet goals of a five-year plan to reform its child welfare operations. Agency officials in 2012 agreed to make improvements to settle a lawsuit filed by a New York-based child advocacy group.

The plan calls for the department to shift away from its use of its emergency shelters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa in favor of more family-like settings. Lake announced in January that both shelters likely will be closing for good this year.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com


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