Jennifer Loren, The Oklahoma Impact Team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The new director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation sat down exclusively with the Oklahoma Impact Team to respond to recent special reports.
In the last year, the Oklahoma Impact Team questioned the agency on several topics: It's handling of specific high-profile murder cases; the agency's use of homicide "clearance rates" as a proof of performance; and their communication with victim's families.
The Oklahoma Impact Team revealed proof of the agency's outdated record-keeping practices. Now, a new boss has taken over the OSBI and told the Oklahoma Impact Team that it's not a broken agency, but some things definitely need to change.
Stan Florence has been an OSBI agent and inspector for eight years. When he got the agency's top job, some employees questioned his ability to make changes.
The Oklahoma Impact Team obtained an e-mail, sent internally and anonymously to the entire OSBI staff, criticizing Florence as the new boss. In it, one employee stated, "What has been lacking for the last six years is good leadership. Abundantly clear also, this is unlikely to change soon."
But Florence disputed that claim saying he can make the agency better.
"I want to always be better tomorrow than I was today, and I want to encourage our staff to be the same way," Florence said.
But when it comes to using homicide clearance rates as a proof of performance, Florence said there will be no change.
Florence acknowledged a cleared case is not necessarily a solved case but said the agency would never be able to provide the statistic.
"None of us, nationwide, break the criteria down like that. We could do that but it would be very difficult to compare us to anyone else," he said.
Another problem the Oklahoma Impact Team highlighted was the agency's reliance on hand-written logs. There is no computer system to keep track of cases.
Florence said he believes that is the agency's biggest problem.
"You would think it would be the case that it would be something that would be, uh, really a priority, and I'm not sure why it hasn't been and why it hasn't been pushed through," he said.
Florence said he hopes a new electronic case management system will be up and running by June, making case management better and more efficient.
Another problem he said has constantly plagued the agency is the lack of funding for more agents.
Right now, he said there are about 80 agents, but only 37 are general assignment, who respond to crimes like homicides. With 77 counties to service, that gives each agent an average caseload of 17.
"Clearly we are really in need of additional staffing in that regard, and this is a difficult time of the year with the recession, to be asking for that," Florence said.
That means many families waiting for the OSBI to bring them justice will have to wait even longer.
"I don't want to say that we put cases on the back burner, but we have to prioritize our work. A lot of times, cases that have someone already in custody or already charged, those cases have to be fulfilled to their conclusion," Florence said.
But that does not explain why the Oklahoma Impact Team has received dozens of complaints against specific agents for their apparent lack of knowledge on specific cases and their unwillingness to talk with victim's family members.
Florence blamed that on a one-of-a-kind state law which prohibits OSBI agents from communicating case information with almost anyone. He said he may try to change that.
"I appreciate the fact that we've got the confidentiality statute. I think we need that in place. But it does present a problem and I think that really and truly is the core issue when it dealing with families," he said.