A proposal to combine multiple state law enforcement agencies into one single agency received the stamp of approval today in the Senate. Senate Bill 1561, by Sen. Ralph Shortey and Rep. Mike Christian, would create the Oklahoma Department of Law Enforcement (ODLE), and bring three separate law enforcement agencies under one umbrella, merging them into four divisions reporting to a single superintendent who will have supervisory authority over the agency. The proposed legacy divisions are:
Oklahoma Highway Patrol (uniformed division)
Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (administration and support division)
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (investigative division)
Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (narcotics division)
Under the provisions of the bill, the current administrative structure of existing agencies would be eliminated and would transfer the duties of each newly formed ODLE division to the seven member council, the OSBI Commission, OBNDD Commission or the Commissioner of Public Safety. The bill gives the superintendent the authority to delegate duties and responsibilities to the respective division directors.
“This approach would eliminate the duplication of the same job functions across agencies and funnel everything into one single organization,” said Shortey, R- Oklahoma City. “All of our law enforcement agencies do a tremendous job independently, but if they were to combine their resources to all work together under one system, it would be significantly better. Each agency currently has its own administration, which duplicates many costs. All have resources like planes, helicopters and vehicle fleets, but because they’re separate agencies with independent administrative functions, they can’t easily share. By restructuring law enforcement under a single umbrella, it will allow for more efficient use of resources and streamlined administrative tasks.”
In addition to creating the Oklahoma Department of Law Enforcement, the legislation also mandates the development of the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Council and the appointment of seven members to that group. The council would be selected by the governor, Speaker of the House and the Senate Pro Tempore as follows:
Speaker of the House appoints one at-large member to a 7 year term
Senate President Pro-Tempore appoints one at-large member to a 6 year term
Governor appoints one district attorney to a 5 year term
Governor appoints one sheriff to a 4 year term
Governor appoints two additional at-large members to serve one and two year terms respectively
An advisory committee comprised of local sheriffs, tribal police, district attorneys and other designated law enforcement leaders would also be put into place to support the Oklahoma Department of Law Enforcement.
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of support for this bill from various law enforcement personnel across the state, including the Sheriffs Association, the Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. All affected stakeholders will be represented at the table through their involvement on the advisory committee,” said Shortey. “By streamlining law enforcement into a single agency, we’ll take a tremendous step towards a system that will be more efficient, more cost effective and all around a better system than what’s currently in place.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman praised Wednesday’s vote in favor of SB 1561.
“Merging the state’s law enforcement agencies is the right thing to do and can save taxpayer dollars by increasing efficiencies and reducing overhead. That’s especially important as we work to address the historic budget crisis in a way that mitigates the impact on core services like public safety,” said Bingman. “Merging law enforcement administration also will enhance public safety by allowing agencies to share resources and intelligence to bolster their efforts to fight crime and keep Oklahomans safe. I applaud Senator Shortey for his hard work and leadership on this important issue.”
SB1561 is now headed to the House for consideration. If passed and signed into law, all power, authorities, and responsibilities of the current law enforcement agencies would transfer to the ODLE agency on December 1, 2016.