In The Know: Training expert says Oklahoma police laws need changes

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

 Oklahoma’s top law-enforcement trainer is pushing for changes to laws that allow volunteer reservists to serve a law enforcement officers with little training. A volunteer Oklahoma deputy charged in the shooting death of an unarmed man pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and won approval for a controversial vacation to the Bahamas. Although execution by gas is being introduced in Oklahoma as a more humane method of capital punishment, Politico showed that this method has been tried before in the United States but was rejected after many botched executions.

The Tulsa County Jail has broken ground on an addition that includes specially designed pods for people suffering from mental illness. The new Oklahoma Director for Right on Crime wrote an op-ed encouraging the Legislature to reform the state’s extremely harsh sentencing laws. A large number of strict mandatory minimum prison sentences have played a role in Oklahoma’s sky high incarceration rate. The Oklahoman examined records of civil rights complaints against Oklahoma schools over the past few years.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how Oklahoma may go back to automatic retention of all third graders who don’t pass a high-stakes reading test. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has purchased 1,000 cribs for families to help prevent sleep-related infant deaths. StateImpact Oklahoma shared an update on bills they are watching this year related to energy, water, and the environment. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how Oklahoma excludes large numbers of poor families from finding a good quality of life. 

The Legislature sent to the governor bills that allow clergy and judges to refuse to officiate marriages on religious grounds. An association of Oklahoma corrections employees has filed a lawsuit against the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services over plans to stop allowing its members to pay dues by payroll deduction. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that county assessors who fail to raise the assessed value of a home during the tax year improvements are made cannot raise it in future years. Gov. Fallin has scheduled special elections for two state House seats in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is 63% – the percentage of Oklahoma residents who said they had a great deal or a fair amount of trust in state government when it comes to handling state problems. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute examines what policies have been shown to work and what policies don’t work when it comes to raising wages.

In The News

Training expert says Oklahoma police laws need changes

Oklahoma law allows former law enforcement officers to return to the profession as reservists with little training, but the state’s top law-enforcement trainer is pushing for changes after a volunteer deputy — a patrolman for only a year in the 1960s — fatally shot an unarmed suspect. Steve Emmons leads the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, which oversees law enforcement training statewide. He is working with lawmakers to require more training after 73-year-old insurance executive Robert Bates, a volunteer for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, said he mistook his handgun for a stun gun before fatally shooting Eric Harris this month.

Read more from NewsOK.

Volunteer Oklahoma deputy pleads not guilty, heads to Bahamas

A volunteer Oklahoma deputy charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to second-degree manslaughter and won approval for a controversial family vacation. A Tulsa judge ordered Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, to return to court July 2 — but approved his request to first vacation in the Bahamas. The vacation drew an angry response from the family of Eric Harris, who was fatally shot by Bates on April 2.

Read more from USA Today.

The Trouble with Oklahoma’s New Execution Technique

Oklahoma’s revival of the gas chamber is a response to the well-documented crisis now plaguing lethal injection, arising from drug shortages and a series of botched executions. Other states reliant on lethal injection have revived long-abandoned execution methods as well: Tennessee last year brought back the electric chair, and Utah recently reinstated the firing squad. Compared to those, nitrogen seems humane. But we have been down this road before.

Read more from Politico.

Tulsa Jail breaks ground on pods for inmates with mental health needs, juveniles

A little upturned dirt signifies change for the Tulsa Jail, especially for those with mental health disorders. County commissioners, sheriff’s officials and a host of other dignitaries watched as ground was broken Monday on a jail addition that includes specially designed pods for people suffering from mental illness. “Nationally, jails have become the largest facilities for mental health institutions,” County Commissioner Ron Peters said. “We are dedicated to helping those with mental health issues improve.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Right on Crime director: Efforts to make Oklahoma laws fit the crime

Oklahoma imprisons a larger percentage of its population that 47 other states. The state’s prison population grew 7.4 percent, or close to 2,000 inmates in the last 12 months. This growth rate will likely mean Oklahoma is now one of the top three fastest-growing prison systems in the country. While much of this growth can be attributed to the shift in policy initiated by Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton to move offenders from county jails into DOC facilities, the fact remains the Oklahoma justice system relies on imprisonment far more than the rest of the country.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Oklahoma’s mandatory minimum punishments too often don’t fit the crime from the OK Policy Blog

What sparks racial discrimination complaints in Oklahoma schools

In Stroud, elementary school students were shown a movie about slavery in which the N-word reportedly was used several times. A teacher then asked a 9-year-old black student to act out the role of a slave child being taken from his mother. Wanting to know just how common racially insensitive incidents might be in Oklahoma schools, The Oklahoman examined data collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and used the federal Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of civil rights complaints that resulted in settlement agreements involving Oklahoma schools over the past several years.

Read more from NewsOK.

Uncertain future for third grade reading reforms

One year ago, parents and educators organized a powerful campaign to amend a state law that would have automatically retained thousands of 3rd-grade children who failed a standardized reading test. In response, the Legislature passed a bill temporarily revising the law, and then mustered the two-thirds super-majority needed to overturn the Governor’s veto of the bill. This year, a strong effort is underway to make last year’s fix permanent – but the supporters of automatic retention are not giving up.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

DHS launches safe sleep initiative

Infant sleep related deaths are heart-wrenching tragedies which too frequently occur as a result of unsafe sleeping practices by families. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services receives notification of all infant sleep-related deaths in the state. In 2013, 75 infants died from unsafe sleeping practices. In 2014, there were 63 infant sleep-related deaths. These numbers do not include infants who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Disturbed by these preventable deaths, DHS Director Ed Lake directed some savings within the agency’s budget to be used to purchase 500 full-sized cribs with mattresses and 500 small portable cribs to help families keep their babies safe.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

What StateImpact is watching in Oklahoma’s 2015 Legislative session

There’s only about a month left in Oklahoma’s 2015 legislative session, and if bills haven’t made it out of the chamber they started in by now, they’re dead. Of the bills of interest to us at StateImpact, the highest profile place new restrictions the wind industry and reduce local control over oil and gas activities. Wind farms have been getting a reimbursement on their property taxes, but that will almost certainly end if Senate Bill 498 get’s to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Prosperity Policy: Behind the good life

Recently I attended a forum where panelists were asked to discuss something positive in which they believed Oklahoma leads the nation. One speaker, a legislator from Oklahoma City, suggested that Oklahoma’s competitive advantage is our two thriving big cities. In very few other places in the U.S., he said, can urban residents enjoy the best amenities of metropolitan life without long daily commutes, crazy work hours, and impossibly priced housing.

Read more from The Journal Record.

Oklahoma Legislature sends governor bills ensuring clery, judges right to refuse to officiate marriages

The Oklahoma House and Senate both overwhelmingly passed and sent to the governor largely symbolic bills targeting same-sex marriage on Wednesday. Senate Bill 788, by Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, and House Bill 1007, by Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, state that people authorized to perform marriages may refuse to do so on religious grounds.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma corrections association sues over payroll deduction

An association of Oklahoma corrections employees has filed a lawsuit against the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services over plans to stop allowing its members to pay dues by payroll deduction. The Oklahoma Corrections Professionals Association was informed March 16 that the state plans to eliminate the ability of its members to pay dues by payroll deduction effective May 1.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma assessor loses belated effort to raise taxes

An Oklahoma county assessor who fails to raise the market value of a home for tax purposes during the tax year improvements are made is limited in future years to increasing the value by no more than 5 percent annually, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled. The court entered its ruling Tuesday in a Garvin County case involving the home of Don and Mary Frankenberg. The home was damaged by fire in 2000, and repairs and substantial improvements to the home were made in 2001. However, the assessor failed to note the improvements or raise the market value on the home until 2012.

Read more from NewsOK.

Gov. Fallin sets special election dates for open House seats

Gov. Mary Fallin set state House seats in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Fallin issued executive proclamations on Monday setting dates for the open House District 73 seat in north Tulsa and the House District 85 seat in northwest Oklahoma City. The Tulsa seat was vacated when former state Rep. Kevin Matthews won a special election for an open Senate seat. The Oklahoma City seat was left open by the death of state Rep. David Dank.

Read more from Fox23.

Quote of the Day

“Seeing the notices of all the babies who died from unsafe sleeping arrangements made me think about what we could possibly do to prevent these needless deaths. Our child welfare workers are already in homes across the state checking on the safety and well-being of children. I wanted our workers to have the ability to help families they encountered who did not have or could not afford cribs for their infants.”

-Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake, speaking about why the Department has recently purchased 1,000 cribs to provide to families in Oklahoma (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma residents who said they had a great deal or a fair amount of trust in state government when it comes to handling state problems.

Source: Gallup

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How to Raise Wages: Policies that work and policies that don’t

There is now widespread agreement across the political spectrum that wage stagnation is the country’s key economic challenge. As EPI has documented for nearly three decades, wages for the vast majority of American workers have stagnated or declined since 1979 (Bivens et al. 2014). This is despite real GDP growth of 149 percent and net productivity growth of 64 percent over this period. In short, the potential has existed for adequate, widespread wage growth over the last three-and-a-half decades, but these economic gains have not trickled down to the vast majority.

Read more from Economic Policy Institute.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “In The Know: Training expert says Oklahoma police laws need changes

  1. Any effort to reduce the harms of OK’s self-inflicted mandatory minimum wounds is welcome, but the voluntary nature of the legislation praised in the Oklahoman op-ed means it will be more “we have to look like we’re doing something” than, you know, doing something. The best thing about the op-ed is the reappearance of Glenn Coffee’s near-million dollar corrections “audit of which nothing more will ever be spoken” after it found, as the op-ed shows, that the legislature was the problem, not DOC (AND punched holes in the glory that is OK’s drug courts at the same time).

    Not so best things in the op-ed included (1) yet another reference to how the TX reforms brought down crime there when crime had been declining on the same trajectory more than a decade before any reforms had been even talked about, making it statistically doubtful that the reforms changed anything at all, and (2) yet another failure to reference the draining off of “inmates” to jails and, more, to “revocation centers” that don’t get counted as “prisons” so prison counts go down. Another “not so good” thing is the support for formal risk assessment as a pre-sentence approach to individual offender punishment, which, to the extent it becomes successful, will politicize a very important tool for correctional professionals and threaten its continued use for its original and valuable purposes. (HINT: if judges haven’t seen a need for more information and data before sentencing in the past, why would they voluntarily subscribe to and use it now?)

    Worst is the failure to acknowledge the true driver of sentencing changes there, the leadership of an authoritative policymaker who mandated that changes be made. The TX Speaker told his house committee chair that he would not support more prison building and the guy better find other ways. The same thing happened in another successful reform state (if marginal changes that can be reversed after the next crime hype and/or new leadership are counted as “success”), Georgia, only with the leadership coming from the governor as authority source rather than the Speaker. NC has had similar leadership from its top court powers during its “successes” that oddly need to be repeated every decade or so. It’s the powerful leadership that makes the changes and their implementation possible, not the content or wisdom of the reforms themselves. States without someone(s) willing to whack opponents hard enough to matter for their obstruction may pass great sounding policy but history has shown what happens when the reporters and spotlights go back home. (See, Oklahoma, 1990s, 2010s.)

    What is also never spoken by reform advocates hyping TX “success” is the long list of past “reform” states that have passed changes with far, far, faaarrrrr less to hype, including not just OK but also KS, MO, and AR as its neighbors. It’s good to see Right on Crime take OK seriously and that will give other reformers some freedom from being called “hug-a-thuggers” when they continue their hard if Sisyphean work in the future. But there’s also danger that passage of these marginal impact bills will convince folks that “reform” has happened when it didn’t really and that what’s really needed can be put on a back burner now, which has happened big time in other states after bills have passed. Including TX. (There’s a reason the op-ed doesn’t talk about anything after 2009 even though TX legislators have proposed other bills.)

    BTW, I’m guessing(hoping?) the revenue from those annoying and interrupting pop-up ads on the Oklahoman’s stories more than makes up for the lost page views for advertisers who lose those of us who’d rather do overhand pull-ups than click on their articles anyway.

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