Oklahoma City Police Chaplain Released From Position

Wednesday, May 14th 2014, 11:00 pm
By: News 9

There's backlash Wednesday night following an admission from an Oklahoma City police chaplain.

He reached out to News 9, taking some responsibility for the way the families of the Plaza Towers 7 were notified of their child's death. That interview didn't sit well with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

"I really feel like we dropped the ball, we could have done better," said Chaplain Bobby Altstatt.

Altstatt called News 9 after hearing how the parents who lost their children in Plaza Towers were notified of their deaths...some receiving what they describe as a "cold phone call from the Medical Examiner's Office." That left Altstatt in tears.

"We should have been ahead of it thinking someone's going to tell them and it needs to be us," said Altstatt.

But as a result of Tuesday night's story, News 9 learned Oklahoma City Police released Altstatt from his volunteer position with the department; a difficult task he's done since the Murrah bombing.

5/13/2014 Related Story: OCPD Chaplains Take Some Responsibility For May 20 Miscommunication

"So is what he said false?" asked News 9's Amanda Taylor.

"Not so much. There were aspects that were true. There were some parts we would not have placed in that context," said Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dexter Nelson.

Bottom line: Nelson tells News 9 Altstatt did not have the authority to speak on behalf of the department. And he violated chaplain code by talking specifics.

"He didn't name names. He wasn't specific about families. So I don't see how that violated," said Taylor.

"He's not authorized to speak about that incident. Period," replied Nelson.

"If he had followed and he had not come to us, were you guys going to tell us the changes that were going to be made in the future? Such as putting up a chaplain tent and making sure you had contact with other chaplains. When were we going to hear about that?" asked Taylor.

"I don't know when you would have gotten that information, but I know those changes were being in the works with our chaplain. But you would have eventually gotten that information," said Nelson.

Nelson says this isn't their first incident with Altstatt.

"That would be the straw that broke the camel's back," said Nelson. "We're not mad at him. It's just he has to understand the procedure and the protocol."

News 9 did speak with Bobby Altstatt on Wednesday.

"I support the police department and any decision they make. I did the story to begin with because I wanted the families to know I was sorry," said Altstatt.

As for Capt. Greg Giltner, the other chaplain News 9 interviewed, Nelson says he was not let go since he spoke more generalized. And News 9 is told there have been changes implemented in the notification process for future disasters.