A video released yesterday shows police in Tulsa, Okla., causing the death of Eric Harris after an officer claims he mistakenly shot him instead of using his taser.
The video is already shocking, as an officer is heard saying “Fuck your breath” when Harris said he was “losing his breath” after being shot (Harris was dead within an hour).
Making the video far more appalling, however, are the details about the officer doing the shooting: 73-year-old Robert Bates, who it turns out isn’t even a real police officer.
On workdays, Bates goes to his job insurance executive. However, after donating thousands of dollars to Tulsa’s police department over the years, he was allowed on his off days to serve as a volunteer reserve sheriff’s deputy, allowed to accompany officers in the Violent Crimes Task Force while they went on patrols. Bates’s only work experience in law enforcement is one year as a full-time police officer 50 years ago.
According to the Tulsa World, Bates had been serving as a reserve deputy for several years, as he was named the department’s deputy of the year in 2011. Reserve deputies are a major component of the Tulsa sheriff’s office, with more than 100 being used in the past year. The office told the World that reserve deputies receive all the training given to full deputies, totaling hundreds of hours, though they acknowledge they also have an “abbreviated curriculum.” That training means that reserve deputies, while not full police officers, possess all the same power and authority when on-duty.
Trained or not, however, Bates’s armed presence on the streets at the age of 73 would be very unusual for regular police, many of whom are retired by their 50s, or at least shifted to desk jobs.
Reserve deputy programs are common across the United States, often providing a way for retired police officers to stay active or allowing departments to bolster their manpower without increasing their payrolls (such deputies are often volunteers).
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