Bill To Consolidate Law Enforcement Agencies Filed

Saturday, February 3rd 2007, 2:26 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Efforts to consolidate several Oklahoma law enforcement agencies into one unit may become a reality during the upcoming legislative session.

House Bill 1571 would abolish the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation by July 1, 2009, and all personnel would be transferred to the Department of Public Safety.

Employees would maintain retirement and vacation benefits and their seniority within the department. The transition would occur over an 18-month period.

Rep. Lucky Lamons, D-Tulsa, author of the bill, said the measure makes the directors of the narcotics bureau, the OSBI and the DPS form a transition team to determine how to integrate the staffs.

"They better start consolidating or the Legislature will do it for them," Lamons, a former Tulsa police officer, said. "This is coming."

The consolidation would not necessarily lead to a budget reduction for the agencies or a big loss of personnel, Lamons said, although he expects about a 10 percent cut in employees who were performing duplicative functions.

"The bottom line is we need the functions of each agency, but we don't need the duplication. They all have their own building, equipment, phones and administrative staff. I can't find any other state in the nation that operates like this," Lamons said.

House Speaker Lance Cargill has said he is open to the idea. Cargill has his own legislation this session that would form the Commission on the Accountability and Review of State Agencies.

The nonpartisan board would audit each of the 99 state agencies at least once every 12 years to find any cost-savings or duplication of functions.

Officials with OSBI and the narcotics bureau support Cargill's commission, saying they welcome any ideas to make their agencies more efficient. But they oppose consolidation, saying each agency would lose its identity.

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said the bill is just a way to cut state funding for law enforcement, which would lead to less safe communities.

Mark Woodward, spokesman for the narcotics bureau, said there is no area where the agency can afford to streamline and cut. He also is concerned about a loss of agent specialization and expertise.

"If anything, (OBN) should be expanded to meet the increasing drug trade," Woodward said.