OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Senate gave the go-ahead to two bills regarding law enforcement in Oklahoma.
The first is Senate Bill 1612, also known as the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Unification Act. SB1612 would consolidate the following agencies in 2023: Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP), Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBNDDC) under the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The bill would also create a Mental Wellness Division that would provide services and programs to public safety personnel in an effort to promote good mental wellness.
“This bill is the result of months of work put in by this commission of our state’s top public safety officials, visiting with hundreds of law enforcement members from various agencies around the state to hear their concerns and ideas about how Oklahoma can improve recruitment and retention. The top needs were for better training, more career opportunities and better access to mental health,” said SB1612’s author, Senator Kim David, R-Porter. “Unifying these agencies will address all of these and improve services through better collaboration and uniform training. We must ensure all public safety personnel get the same high-level training, so they can easily move from one area of law enforcement to another, giving them more career opportunities whether they’re highway patrol or want to go into investigations, drug enforcement or other areas. I’m proud of this piece of legislation and appreciate my Senate colleagues’ support.”
SB1612 passed on the Senate floor with a 37-6 vote on March 24.
The second bill, also authored by Sen. David, is Senate Bill 1613. This measure directs the Department of Public Safety to establish and maintain the Mental Wellness Division.
“Oklahoma’s public safety members are some of the best and most professional in the nation, but these are extremely difficult and mentally taxing jobs. Unfortunately, many won’t seek help for their mental health because of embarrassment, stigma, or fear of career repercussions,” said Sen. David. “Depression, anxiety, addiction, and mental exhaustion are common for these heroes from the constant traumas they face, and that also negatively impacts their marriages and other relationships. Just as they protect all of us, we need to protect them and their families, which includes their mental health.”
SB1613 also establishes a revolving fund and a not-for-profit foundation to raise money for the fund. It passed on the Senate floor with a 43-0 vote on March 24.
The bills will now head to the House for consideration.