Report: Oklahoma Leads Nation In Fatal Police Shootings

Tuesday, June 2nd 2015, 7:20 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

A recent report says Oklahoma has the highest rate of police shootings in the nation.

According to a Washington Post analysis, 22 people have been killed by Oklahoma law enforcement officers so far this year. That tops the nation in the rate of people shot and killed by police at 4.4 per one million people; double that of most other states.

That report came out before the water rescue turned fatal police shooting near Okmulgee over the weekend.

“Oklahoma has a bit of a perfect storm to create the circumstances for violence between police and citizens,” said Brady Henderson, the Legal Director of the Oklahoma ACLU.

Henderson believes that perfect storm includes a lack of standardized statewide training for police officers, as evidenced in the accidental shooting of Eric Harris by Tulsa Sheriff's office Reserve Deputy Robert Bates.

Henderson also points to the high rates of mental illness and substance abuse that goes untreated. Case in point: 83-year-old Buddy Weaver, who was threatening officers with a machete when police shot and killed him.

“Those are people, they're not necessarily trying to do anything criminal. They're not there to hurt anybody else. But they can appear dangerous to a law enforcement officer.”

Henderson goes on to say Oklahoma incarcerates a large number of people and does a poor job at education, which leads to more dangerous encounters with law enforcement.

“You've got more people, for instance, that are walking around, driving around with warrants on them, for things like unpaid court costs,” explained Henderson. “If I'm in a situation it gives me incentive to do something like run away from an officer, something that's inherently dangerous, something that's a bad idea.”

“People naturally don't want to take another person's life, whether it's justified or not,” said Oklahoma City FOP President John George.

George says he was surprised by the analysis, but points out in most cases officers are usually just reacting to the suspect.

“Nine times out of 10 or more they're being confronted by that suspect. It's the suspect's actions that dictate the situation,” said George. “If people would just do what they are told, whether they think the officer is right or wrong, they just do what they are told these situations wouldn't happen 99.9% of the time.”

The Oklahoma City Police Department has had four deadly shootings so far this year. It is one of 19 state and local departments across the country with more than three fatal shootings.

A captain with the Oklahoma City Police Department says they train their officers to protect the public they serve, which also includes perpetrators.

“Unfortunately in most deadly force incidents the actions taken by our officers are directly dictated by the actions of the suspects they encounter and sometimes the officer's only recourse is deadly force.”