In The Know: Why Does Oklahoma Lead The Nation In Police Shootings? Terence Crutcher’s Death Could Help Explain

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessaraily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Why Does Oklahoma Lead The Nation In Police Shootings? Terence Crutcher’s Death Could Help Explain: On September 16, helicopter video and a Tulsa police officer’s dash cam captured the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby. Crutcher, 40, was unarmed, and controversy has swirled regarding whether Crutcher was a stranded motorist with his hands in the air or whether he was a potentially violent, noncompliant suspect under the influence of PCP. Since his shooting death, the officer who fired the fatal shot has been charged with first degree manslaughter [Huffington Post].

Third-grade reading gains show schools can make a difference; imagine if we just funded them right! Congratulations to area schools on gains in third-grade reading proficiency levels. Recently released test results show Tulsa Public Schools third-graders continued a trend of slow, steady progress since passage of a state law that emphasizes third-grade reading performance, including the strong possibility of holding back students who don’t pass the test. Some schools were up and others were down, but overall, the district’s third-grade reading scores were up by 3 percentage points [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Changes to workers compensation system leave injured man facing financial woes: A workplace accident forever altered the life of Stan E. Spence, a 28-year-old married father of three. The state’s workers’ compensation system, which has undergone changes in recent years, pays his medical bills but falls short of covering his lost wages. Spence was injured May 31, 2015, while working at the LSB Industries plant in Pryor. He said a compressor blew up and shot out a valve that hit him in the face [Tulsa World].

Three more Oklahoma death row inmates lose final appeals: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the appeals of three Oklahoma death row inmates. There are now 11 inmates eligible for execution dates when the state resumes lethal injections. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has delayed seeking execution dates while the Oklahoma Department of Corrections reviews its lethal injection process [NewsOK]. 

Watch out for wasteful tax giveaways disguised as help for ‘small business’: Last week a press release from Governor Fallin advertised that she was participating in the “Bring Small Businesses Back Bus Tour” when it came to Oklahoma City. This tour is sponsored by the “Job Creators Network”, an association of corporate leaders started by the former presidential candidate Herman Cain and one of the founders of Home Depot. Governor Fallin’s press release especially focused on promoting H.R. 5374, a proposal by Illinois Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren that he calls the “Bring Small Business Back Tax Reform Act.” [OK Policy]

Democrats, Republicans want to rein in civil forfeiture: With Democrats and Republicans increasingly at loggerheads, it’s refreshing to find one issue that both parties support: the need to protect Americans from abusive police seizures. Under “civil forfeiture” laws, police can seize — and keep — cash and cars, even if the owner was never convicted of, much less charged with, a crime. But now the party platforms for both the national Republican and Democratic parties have called for sweeping reforms to civil forfeiture [Nick Sibilia / NewsOK]. New Mexico stopped civil asset forfeiture abuse; Oklahoma can, too [OK Policy].

In Rural Areas, Mental Health Can Depend on Finding a Ride: There was a time in Carol Barnes’ life when the prospect of losing her car would have worsened her already severe anxiety and depression. When she was struggling with her disorders during the mid-2000s, Barnes said, losing her only means of transportation would have meant losing access to her mental health providers. “If you don’t already have anxiety, you will, because you worry about it,” said Barnes, who lives in Ponca City [Oklahoma Watch].

A Doctor Shortage Ahead: Oklahoma’s health care and outcome rankings are already low and nd the future is not bright. Eric Pollak is the Vice President at the OSU Center for Health. He says the state is facing a doctor shortage. He says many doctors are nearing retirement age, especially in rural Oklahoma where there is already a health care shortage. Pollak says to address the problem, Oklahoma would need an influx of 1,300 immediately [Public Radio Tulsa].

ACLU seeks ruling in panhandling lawsuit: The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma on Monday asked a federal court to rule in its favor in its challenge to Oklahoma City’s anti-panhandling ordinance. None of the facts necessary to settle the lawsuit are in “genuine dispute,” the civil liberties organization asserted in a motion for a legal ruling known as “summary judgment.” ACLU attorneys said the U.S. Constitution and numerous federal court rulings support its position [NewsOK]. The OKC panhandling ordinance is part of a disturbing trend of criminalizing poverty [OK Policy].

Bridges at center of Oklahoma transportation plans: An 80-year-old span over a creek in the heart of Guthrie will be replaced, the Oklahoma Transportation Commission decided Monday as it continued efforts to shorten the state’s long list of obsolete bridges. In 2004, 1,168 of the state’s 6,800 highway bridges were rated as structurally deficient. That number now stands at 321, which are all set for replacement or repair by the end of the decade. However, the pace of improvement will slow because of the state’s ongoing revenue shortfall [NewsOK].

Oklahoma pollution policies and earthquakes: Earthquakes are becoming more common in Oklahoma as a result of wastewater disposal wells, and one company is in the thick of a legal battle with its insurance company. Plaintiffs filed five lawsuits in Oklahoma state and federal courts against Oklahoma oil and gas company New Dominion LLC in January and February. The suits alleged the company’s use of hydraulic fracturing and injection well operations caused or contributed to an increase in earthquakes, according to court records filed [Enid News].

Arkansas, Oklahoma governors discuss wind energy project: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson agreed when they spoke Monday at the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission’s annual conference that energy policy needs to be included in the national political debate. But the two governors disagreed on a controversial transmission line project that is designed to move wind energy from the Oklahoma Panhandle to western Tennessee. Fallin, the 2016 chairman of the commission, said she supports the $2.5 billion Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project, for which construction is scheduled to start next year [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“I don’t make enough money to pay all the bills. We pick and choose what bills to pay every month.”

-Stan E. Spence, who was injured at his job last year and receives worker’s compensation payments of $571 each week. A 2013 change to benefits for worker’s compensation gave Oklahoma the second-lowest maximum temporary total disability in the nation (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma children 12-17 who reported use of any tobacco product in 2013-2014, second highest in the nation.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

As economy rebounds, state funding for higher education isn’t bouncing back: Chantal Fulgencio had the bad timing to start as a freshman in the fall of 2012 at public East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. That was just when the state was in the midst of seven straight years of cutting its budget for higher education during and after the recession, or at best keeping spending level. Between the time Fulgencio applied and when she enrolled, tuition went up 7.5 percent, and the price kept rising after that, even as services were reduced and class sizes grew [Hechinger Report].

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.