Oklahoma’s reserve law enforcement officers would be required to complete additional CLEET certified training each year under a new bill passed in the Senate on Thursday morning, according to the bill’s author, Sen. Ralph Shortey.
The measure would apply to Oklahoma’s more than 3,500 reserve officers who work part time and are not paid for their service. The bill would mandate an increase in basic reserve academy hours to a minimum of 300 hours, up from the current requirement of 240. It would also require reserve officers to complete an additional 15 hours of continuous education training annually, including two hours of mental health education.
“This is an important and long overdue step to ensure our reserve law enforcement officers are not only properly trained, but this will enable them to remain trained as the years pass and needs change in law enforcement,” said Shortey, R-Oklahoma City. “If we are willing to give our reserve officers the authority to serve and protect, and arm them appropriately to do so, we need to make sure they receive ongoing, timely training on a regular basis.”
Although the law now stipulates all law enforcement officers complete a minimum of 240 hours of CLEET training, there is no requirement for ongoing continuing education annually for reserve officers.
“We currently have reserve officers working in our communities who have not had any continuing education past their initial 240 hours, which they could have completed years ago with no additional training since then,” said Shortey. “That situation could prove unsafe or risky, as it puts the reserve officer and the community they serve at higher risk in dangerous situations. Reserve officers are undoubtedly valuable resources within law enforcement organizations, but we need to take the additional steps to make sure they’re properly trained and educated on the changing needs of law enforcement each year before we arm them and send them out to protect our communities.”
The continuing education requirements would be tracked by CLEET and Shortey said on Thursday the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association has endorsed the bill as a way to address the current deficiency in training for reserve officers.
During debate on the Senate floor, the measure gained support from Sen. Kevin Matthews, who represents the district in Tulsa where the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris by Tulsa County volunteer reserve deputy Robert Bates took place. The reserve deputy killed Harris when he mistook his gun for his taser.
“I want to thank Senator Shortey and my colleagues in the Senate for taking swift action on this important public safety issue. Reserve peace officers play a crucial role in helping our law enforcement agencies fulfill their duty to protect and serve the public,” said Matthews, D-Tulsa. “However, the recent tragic incident in Tulsa County brought to our attention that our reserve officers aren’t currently receiving adequate training, which can lead to deadly consequences. We must make sure that reserve officers are highly qualified and trained so that the citizens of Oklahoma can be confident that they are providing the best services possible.”
SB 526 passed the Senate by a vote of 26-21 and is now headed to the House for consideration.