TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An embattled Oklahoma sheriff's office said it has withdrawn from a national law enforcement accrediting agency after its sheriff was indicted by a grand jury called to investigate the agency after a volunteer deputy fatally shot an unarmed man in April.
Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Michelle Robinette told The Associated Press on Thursday the agency sent the withdrawal letter this week to the Virginia-based Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. The highly-regarded nonprofit helps organizations strengthen crime-prevention techniques, promote nondiscrimination policies and boost community trust. A message left after hours with the group seeking comment wasn't returned.
"Going through the process, it's become evident we need to take a step back and look and reassess and address some issues that became apparent that we need to fix," Robinette said. Citing a list of eight recommendations for improving the department submitted by the grand jury, she added, "We just felt it appropriate to withdraw and go through a self-assessment period and get our agency back where it should be." Robinette said she hopes the sheriff's office can be ready to reapply with CALEA in January.
Robinette said the withdrawal was hastened by Sheriff Stanley Glanz's indictment by the grand jury last week on two misdemeanor counts and the jurors' recommendations. Jurors called for better accountability of field training hours and suggested that the office's internal affairs department be more autonomous, among others.
Their recommendations appeared to address a leaked 2009 memo that questioned the training of reserve deputy Robert Bates, a close friend of the sheriff who fatally shot an unarmed man in a Tulsa street in April. Bates, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Eric Harris, said he confused his handgun and stun gun. He's since left the force. Glanz will leave office Nov. 1.
Bates' close ties with Glanz raised questions about the reserve deputy program and prompted thousands of residents to call for a grand jury to investigate whether volunteers like Bates who gave equipment and cash to the agency were given special treatment.
Dan Smolen, the attorney for the Harris family who released a 2009 memo questioning Bates' training after Eric Harris was killed, said in a statement Thursday that the sheriff's office likely withdrew from CALEA because it "does not wish to subject itself to the scrutiny that comes with accreditation."
"It is symbolic that the CALEA accreditation that Sheriff Glanz once proudly touted as proof that he ran a tight ship has now been unceremoniously abandoned," Smolen said.