public corruption
For decades, some state leaders have sought to unify and expand the operations of state law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma. (Trace Thomas)

To the editors:

After reading the article about SB 1612 written by Tres Savage, I felt I needed to pass on a few thoughts. The idea of reorganizing the state agencies into one state police force isn’t a bad idea. A lot of states have one central state police force, and allowing the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to be a self-starting agency rather than a requested agency is definitely a good idea. It should have been that way in the first place.

Having said all of that, the real problem in this state is not a lack of procedure, it’s the apathy of all the agencies responsible for investigating corruption. We have the laws and procedures in place to get it done. Having OSBI being a requested agency is not the biggest limiting factor.

Two years ago, I was a chief of police in a small town in Oklahoma. I discovered corruption and criminal activity by members of the town government. Seeing as how it was a conflict of interest to investigate my own employers, I did what I was supposed to and contacted state authorities. I started with a report to the Oklahoma Attorney’s General Office. The investigator there wanted to start an investigation, but his supervisor wouldn’t authorize it. This was despite the fact that the chief of police before me had sent them a 137-page report of the illegal things he saw while he was there. He urged me to request OSBI to become involved. I did that. I filed a report with them, and they opened an investigation, but the supervisor I spoke to wasn’t real gung-ho to investigate. He told me, “It’s small-town corruption. It’s everywhere. What are you going to do about it?”

Well, I thought, you’d do your job. Arrest of few of them, and the rest will behave better in fear of getting the same. But both agencies were very apathetic about it. I even reported one of my officers for corrupt activities, including violating the civil rights of the public. In addition to reporting him to OSBI and the AG’s Office, I reported him to the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training, since they are responsible for policing law enforcement ethics in Oklahoma and could suspend his certification. They did nothing to him either, even with his own chief reporting him. I also tried to get him fired, but because he was the accomplice of the corrupted town officials, they only demoted him. He is now their chief of police.

And that is where the state has failed the public. We don’t need apathy. We don’t even necessarily need a new agency. The current system could have worked, or it should have. People are up in arms right now about police corruption. When a chief of police tries to stop it in one of his own officers and reports it to the proper state authorities and they do nothing, what do you expect? What we need is reform in enforcing the existing laws and making sure people whose job it is to investigate this do their jobs, instead of shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Oh well. What are you going to do about it?” How about your job?

But then again, they don’t pay the price, do they? We do.

Chris Roberts
Claremore, Oklahoma

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