To clarify, the reserve academy is 240 hours (nights and weekends), the full time academy is 600 hours (increased to 600 4-5 years ago). Reserves are limited to the number of hours they may work. When I started in ____ the reserve academy was 168 (min hours, most add additional training to it) and I think full time was 320. A few years before that it was less and less.
They have increased training greatly over the last 15-20 years. The main reason it has taken so long to increase the hours and why it isn't as high as the national average is that most departments can't afford to have an officer tied up at the academy for more time. Most have a difficult time making it while they are gone as it is, due to a lack of manpower. The only area where the standards in OK exceed standards is firearms. They made the qualification course easier 3-4 years ago, but it's still difficult. (Before they used to start at 50 yards, now they have eliminated those and added more at 25 yards).
As for the reason for more shootings by officers and other issues in general, there are many things that contribute.
1) OK is a "conservative" state. They continually increase penalties while at the same time cutting budgets, causing less personnel, less continuing education opportunities, increased early release of inmates (I think the last news article I read on our prisons stated at they are only about 60% staffed). In my opinion, the ones on parole are far from adequately supervised. There is also, in my opinion, a lack of mental health services.
2) Pay. No one wants to say it, but low pay contributes to they quality of officers. You get some that do it for the right reasons, then some that never should be officers. It's hard for most agencies to find suitable officers. With the exception of a handful of agencies in the metro areas and the OK Highway Patrol, I would estimate the average salary as 30K. Some smaller agencies in our area start at just above minimum wage. Some small towns have one full time and actually pay one or two reserves (many end up going to the full time academy and becoming full time at some point).
3) Low number of officers per square mile outside of OKC, Tulsa, Norman, and Lawton. There are no agencies outside of the metro areas that I know of they have more than one officer per unit. In many areas, the nearest backup may be 15-20 miles away. (More likely to fight or attack a solo officer.) It's not that these areas are not populated, just not as densely populated. The tax bases do not generate enough to hire additional officers.
4) Meth and prescription drugs, abused everywhere, but sadly more so in OK. Leads to increases crime and violence in general
5) Suicide by cop. This seems to be happening more in OK. A few weeks ago I was involved in a pursuit and shootout with a man who had murdered his brother and told some people he wouldn't be taken alive. As a result of his actions, a state trooper was injured by glass flying into his eye when a bullet from the suspect struck his windshield. The suspect was shot and killed. The same night one of the troopers that came to assist with that stopped a car and the driver pulled a pistol and started shooting at him, causing the trooper to retreat to his car and return fire. The suspect then exited his vehicle and shot himself in the head. The last I heard no one was able to determine why the man did it.
6) Change in our society. I used to think my elders didn't know what they were talking about when they spoke of changes, but I have noticed them myself over my 35 years of life, especially the last 10. With newer generations, ethics and personal responsibility seems to have declined. Children are doing things in school now that we would have never done or even thought about doing. Some (sadly some of my own family) have no respect for themselves or anything else. (I'm not sure if this is everywhere or just in our region.). We also have a high percentage of our population on various forms of welfare and large economically depressed areas (not that this makes someone a criminal).
7) Broken juvenile justice system and some parent that just don't care. In OK, they can do nearly anything without consequences, and they know it. By the time they turn 18 is too late and they continue to be criminals.
8) Drug trafficking and cartels. I-35 , I-40, and I-44. Besides local drug manufactures, large amounts are brought through our state. (Same is true for AZ, NM, and TX).
9) EVERYONE in OK is armed. I personally do not have an issue with it. I purchased my first firearm, a Colt single action .22, from an elderly neighbor when I was 9 years old. I have collected and enjoyed shooting ever since, both competitively and recreational. In OK, I would estimate that over 50% of the population have weapons and many hunt. It is legal for citizens to own suppressors, machine guns, and short barreled rifles (with appropriate paperwork and ATF tax stamp). The vast majority of gun owners are very responsible, however, with increased gun ownership, there is naturally going to be increased issues involving firearms. Same is true with alcohol (our state had a huge problem with DUI), fattening foods, and smoking.
All of this sounds bad, but Oklahoma is actually a good state to live in, it just had some issues like anywhere else.
April 17, 2015
Here's what's up in Oklahoma
This is an email I received from (someone I believe is) an Oklahoma Police officer. He answered my question -- why does Oklahoma lead the nation in people killed by police? -- very well. It's knowledge I don't have, and I can't say it better myself. He agreed to let me reprint it here, anonymously:
Labels: police culture