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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Vigilante living out childhood dreams bought way into police

“Oh! I shot him. I’m sorry,” were the first words uttered by Robert Bates, 73, a Tulsa County Reserve Deputy, after shooting and killing Eric Harris in a weapons sting operation. Bates meant to tase Harris, not shoot him. Now charged with manslaughter, Bates is a striking representation of nonchalance exhibited by this nation’s police departments throughout a consistent tsunami of unwarranted police murders of civilians.

The delineation between our seemingly militarized police and the public they are sworn to protect has never been clearer, and the fact that an unqualified senior citizen murdered someone with his private weapon isn’t helping. Auxiliary police, who serve at the pleasure of the public to enforce law at public and community events in cities like New York, usually do not carry guns.

Bates, a volunteer — at the expense of the hard-working, qualified and well-intentioned police officers of this country — makes a mockery of the profession.

Bates, the CEO of an insurance company, served one year as a police officer in 1964 before earning an impressive fortune in the private sector. He has since used this fortune to buy influence and the chance to serve out his fantasy on the force. Not only has Bates funded the re-election campaign of his good buddy Sheriff Stanley Glanz, he has also provided the department’s drug unit numerous pieces of equipment.

In a not-so-large stretch of the imagination, it seems Bates — whose bail was posted and immediately paid at $25,000 — is acting out some sort of state-sanctioned vigilante fantasy, a la Batman or Daredevil, with his money.

Batman, who never kills if he can avoid it, uses his wealth and influence to eliminate threats without drawing attention to himself. Daredevil, who is slightly more problematic — especially if you’ve been watching Netflix’s incarnation — blindly (literally) targets crime without really considering the consequences. The two vigilantes, one a philanthropic billionaire and the other an idealistic blind lawyer, strike at the heart of crime within their cities. But, they do share a trait that Bates lacks: being qualified.

While Batman’s utility belt and Daredevil’s fists/billy club are not certified for use in the field by any police department, the two most certainly know how to use them. Bates doesn’t know how to use a gun or a Taser.

According to the Tulsa World’s Ziva Branstetter, “training records released Saturday do not show that Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates qualified on a revolver he carried during a fatal shooting, and his gun was not on the list of firearms deputies can carry on duty.”

In the records released, years are misplaced or lost, and there have been multiple substantiated claims that records were forged by officials to corroborate Bates’ qualifications.

Not only did Bates use his private weapon, a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver, Bates’ scores on his weapons qualifications exams were horrific.

Scoring a 16 initially before logging a 64 and a 72, the patchwork qualifications exhibit a lack of consistency and precision. Bates’ highest score was the lowest required to qualify, and the deviation between that and his worst was drastic.

Bates claimed to be an advanced deputy in 2007, contrary to his claims that he completed the necessary training in 2009. Bates also claimed to have trained with the Maricopa County’s Sheriff’s Office on active shooter training, a claim a spokesperson quickly refuted.

So, basically, someone who wasn’t qualified to have a gun was parading around as a police officer and “mistook” his Taser — which feels, looks and shoots completely different than his illegal firearm — for his gun and shot Eric Harris. In a CNN report by Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer and associate professor in the department of law and police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, there really wasn’t even a reason to Tase or shoot Harris, who was surrounded by officers and was effectively powerless to resist.

Bates, at 73, would have been forced to retire due to many departments’ age limits. So, why is he allowed to volunteer outside the realm of normal volunteer police work? While Harris undoubtedly sold an undercover police officer a weapon — a Lugar pistol — and then fled the scene, there is no claim to substantiate the “excusable homicide” of anyone. Especially not when the killer is paying to play and taking family vacations to the Bahamas while under investigation.


Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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