Sand Springs Police Renew Agreement With OSBI For 'Public Accountability'

Monday, October 10th 2016, 5:37 pm
By: News On 6

The Sand Springs Police Department signed an agreement with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation during a city council meeting Monday.

The contract, which is a memorandum of understanding, states OSBI will always investigate any Sand Springs officer-involved shooting.

The practice began in April 2015, after the department's most recent police shooting, in which a Sand Springs officer shot and killed a 66-year-old man who threatened police with his gun.

4/13/2015 Related Story: Sand Springs Police: Fatal Shooting An Unavoidable Tragedy

The incident was the department's first deadly officer-involved shooting in 17 years. 

Chief Mike Carter called in OSBI to investigate — but not because he believed the officer acted in the wrong.

"The vast majority of police use-of-force and the vast majority of deadly force is lawful and necessary and it's an unfortunate part of the job," Carter explained. "What has changed is the perception."

The public is losing trust in the uniform, Carter said, and one way departments can gain that back is to call in an unbiased third party to investigate such incidents.

"We want to assure people we're being transparent," Carter said, "and we're holding ourselves accountable."

Some larger departments, like the Tulsa Police Department, which has about 750 officers, handle officer-involved shootings internally, through its homicide department.

That's what happened after Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by Officer Betty Shelby last month.

Special Coverage: Terence Crutcher Police Shooting

Officer Leland Ashley said it's been Tulsa Police Department protocol for decades. He said many smaller agencies don't have the resources to investigate internally.

"Just being a larger city, a larger department, our investigators are skilled at working shootings and cases like this," Ashley said.

But Carter said it's not that his own department is not capable. In fact, it used to conduct its own investigations until the 2015 incident.

"It's not because we don't have the manpower or we don't have the resources to do that, it's purely for that transparency and public accountability," Carter said.

The agreement with OSBI is part of a long-term policing plan Carter assembled. You can find it here.

News On 6 contacted several other area departments to find out what their policies are regarding police shooting investigations. 

Bartlesville Police Department, which has 61 officers, said it has not had an officer-involved shooting incident in years. The department would call OSBI if the incident occurred.

Catoosa Police Department, a smaller agency with 15 officers, said it would call on OSBI or Tulsa Police Department to review the incident.

Claremore Police Department, with 38 officers, said it calls upon either OSBI or Oklahoma Highway Patrol, depending on the circumstance.

McAlester Police Department has 43 officers. The department said it typically calls OSBI on an officer-involved shooting.

Muskogee Police, with nearly 100 officers, said it typically conducts an internal investigation following an officer-involved shooting. Then, it calls for an outside agency such as the FBI or OSBI to review the investigation.

Rogers County Sheriff's Office asked OSBI to investigate an August officer-involved shooting. The man who was shot in that incident was not killed.

Wagoner Police called on OSBI to investigate its recent fatal officer-involved shooting in June 2016.