TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Reserve deputies with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office can no longer patrol alone, the agency announced Thursday, but attorneys for the family of a man who was fatally shot by a volunteer said the move came too late.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz said the office would temporarily limit its reserves while it audits the training records of its 126 reserve deputies.
The review comes after the release of internal memos from 2009 that indicate officers were worried that 73-year-old reserve deputy Robert Bates hadn't completed required training and that administrators were silencing criticisms of the volunteer.
Bates, a friend of Glanz who has donated tens of thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, is charged with second-degree manslaughter in the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris.
Bates has said he confused his handgun and stun gun after Harris ran from authorities during a sting operation involving gun sales. 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.
Also Thursday, Glanz announced that Chief Deputy Richard Weigel would become undersheriff after Tim Albin resigned. The 2009 investigation alleged Albin had been aware Bates was inadequately trained but pressured officers to look the other way. Weigel starts Friday.
Another 2009 memo indicated Glanz was told directly about concerns that Bates' training record may have been falsified. The document appeared to be initialed by Glanz, but didn't say when it was prepared or sent to him. Glanz declined to comment Tuesday, when the memo was released.
Glanz made Thursday's announcements in news releases, but declined to comment further. An agency spokesman said the sheriff would continue to evaluate the office and make changes where needed.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said an investigation into the Sheriff's Office is underway by an outside agency, but he declined to elaborate.
"I'm trying to protect the integrity of the investigative process, and I'm not going to comment any further," Kunzweiler said.
Attorneys for Harris' family said the agency's suspension of the advanced reserve deputy program was "far too little and far too late. "
"If Sheriff Glanz had taken appropriate, timely action, when he was first made aware of the serious and dangerous problems with his reserve deputy program, Eric Harris would be alive today," attorney Dan Smolen said.
Marq Lewis, a civil rights organizer who has called on Glanz to resign over the shooting, said the internal review shows the office was more concerned about doing "damage control."
"It goes to show the tone that has been set in this whole nightmare," Lewis said. "Everything is reactive instead of becoming proactive."
Associated Press reporters Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City and Allen Reed in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.