OKLAHOMA CITY — In the wake of the reserve deputy-involved shooting that killed a man in Tulsa, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is calling for an end to the “Buy A Badge” program.
The program, according to the ACLU, “allows favored friends and wealthy donors to Oklahoma sheriffs to carry guns and badges as reserve deputies, often with far less training and experience than professional law enforcement officers.”
In the shooting that started the push to end the “Buy a Badge” program, 73-year-old Robert Bates accidentally grabbed his gun instead of his Taser as he tried to help subdue a suspect black market gun dealer.
Bates has since been charged with second degree manslaughter.
“Eric Harris is dead today as the result of an utterly reckless program that allows donors to buy a badge and play police officer with real guns and real bullets,” Executive Director of the Oklahoma ACLU Ryan Kiesel said in a press release.
The ACLU also expressed its concern with the explicit language and “callous and dehumanizing approach of at least one Tulsa County law enforcement officer” as he told the suspect “F— your breath” in the arrest of Eric Harris.
“This officer’s response is disgusting and he has no business serving the people of Tulsa County. We call on the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office to discipline this officer and demonstrate this barbaric attitude will not be tolerated,” Kiesel said in the press release.
To prevent unnecessary death, the ACLU is now urging Tulsa County to revoke the privileges of those in the “Buy a Badge” program.
“The reckless killing committed by Reserve Deputy Bates was not just due to his own careless choice when handling a deadly weapon, but to the carelessness of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office in placing Bates in an extremely dangerous situation for which clearly he was not prepared,” ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson said in the press release.
“What happened to Eric Harris was not just “a mistake,” it was the result of a series of choices that show a reckless disregard for human dignity and human life,” Henderson continued.
Officials with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office say reserve deputies must go through several training courses before being allowed on patrol.
They say the required training involves an eight month program and must serve 16 hours a month.