Reserve Deputies Not Uncommon For Several Oklahoma Counties

Tuesday, April 14th 2015, 6:28 pm
By: Emory Bryan

A Tulsa County reserve deputy was booked into jail and bonded out about 15 minutes later on a charge of manslaughter.

That bond is $25,000, an amount set by state law for the charge.

Reserve Deputy Bob Bates is charged in the death of Eric Harris.

4/14/2015 Related Story: Tulsa Reserve Deputy Turns Himself In For Manslaughter

The medical examiner's office has ruled the manner of Harris' death as a gunshot wound and the cause of death, a homicide.

Bates has maintained all along that Harris' death was an accident and that he meant to grab and fire his Taser, but pulled out his gun instead.

Harris is an ex-con who was caught on tape, moments before the shooting, selling a loaded gun to an undercover deputy.

The sheriff's office said Bates was stationed blocks away from the undercover sting operation, but Harris ran from deputies and was taken to the ground near Bates' location.

Harris' family released a statement after Bates that said, in part, they believe the charge against him is a first step toward justice and healing for them.

4/14/2015 Related Story: Harris Family Releases Statement After Tulsa Reserve Deputy Bonds Out

Bates is a reserve deputy for Tulsa County; just one of many reserve programs in the state.

Sheriff's departments often use reservists as a low cost way to expand the force.

The shooting in Tulsa County is drawing scrutiny over the age of the reserve deputy and whether it's appropriate to have a reservist in that situation.

The reserve deputies for Rogers County, men and women, work for free and sometimes put themselves in harm's way.

Major Coy Jenkins said, in his experience, they're motivated by just wanting to help.

"These reserves give us a lot of opportunity to do more," Jenkins said.

Rogers County trains reservists and regular deputies to the same standards on firearms, and uses reservists in a variety of situations - ranging from community relations with a bike patrol at events, to the mounted patrol for searches in rough terrain.

Jenkins said his reservists come from all walks of life, and many qualify as advanced reserves, with the same authority as full time deputies.

“If it's an advanced reserve, it would not be unusual for us to put them in a position of authority, intense scrutiny, just as we would a full time," he said.

That includes scenarios as critical as the one in Tulsa that ended with the unintentional shot that killed Harris.

Jenkins, who once worked as a Tulsa County Sheriff's Deputy, also trains officers on how to choose the right weapon for the situation, in part by just keeping them separated on a gun belt.

"In our agency, we're required, if we carry a Taser, it's got to be on the other side of our sidearm, so there's effectively two different ways you can wear the Taser,” Jenkins said.

Not every sheriff uses reservists, but Rogers County believes the benefit is well worth the cost.

The benefit, he notes, comes with the risk of a mistake that a reservist or full time deputy might make.

Rogers County has a reservist that's 71 years old, fully qualified they said, but regardless, every reservist for any agency has to pass an agility test and have 240 hours of training just to start, and continuing training after that.