By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The Sand Springs Police Department took a proactive step in instilling transparency within the department Monday evening when Police Chief Mike Carter signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" between the City of Sand Springs and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
After a unanimous 7-0-0 vote by the Sand Springs City Council, Carter put pen to paper, officially putting in place a policy of turning over internal investigations to the OSBI when use of deadly force has occurred.
In situations involving "the shooting or attempted shooting of a person by a law enforcement officer; the death of an intended arrestee during an arrest attempt; the death of an arrestee while in the care, custody, or control of the (SSPD); or the death of an arrestee shortly after being in the care, custody or control of the (SSPD)," the OSBI will take over as an unbiased external investigating agency.
OSBI Director Stan Florence addressed the City Council and stated "I applaud the Chief for his foresight in this matter. It's a wise move on the part of Sand Springs and I applaud the Chief in his wisdom."
"I am continuously impressed with how great our police department performs and how great their leadership is," said Mayor Mike Burdge.
Officer-involved shootings are a rarity in Sand Springs. So rare that the department went seventeen years years without an incident before that era came to an end on April 11, 2015. On that day Officer Brian Barnett shot and killed Donald W. Allen, a paranoid schizophrenic who approached the officer with a loaded .22-caliber pistol after threatening to kill officers. Barnett was responding to a 911 call about Allen discharging his firearm in his backyard, within City limits.
Although the SSPD has always had the ability to investigate in-house, former Police Chief Daniel Bradley, who is now the Assistant City Manager, made the decision to request the OSBI's assistance in the investigation.
2015 saw yet another officer-involved shooting in November that received international attention. That incident went viral not due to police misconduct, but due to body-cam footage of the erratic behavior of the suspect. Responding to a stolen vehicle call, Sand Springs Master Patrol Officer Matt Stacy engaged in a high speed pursuit of Stacy Ann Bunsey. The woman, who was determined to be under the influence, attempted to run the officer down after he exited his vehicle to set up tire spikes. He fired on her, but did not hit her and neither was seriously injured.
The OSBI investigated both incidents last year and ruled that each was a justified use of force.
While shootings are very uncommon in Sand Springs, a Tulsa suburb with a population just short of 20,000, Carter and the Department have been working hard to be proactive in preserving their department's reputation of transparency and community trust.
This agreement is just one of many activities the Department is engaging in to further build community trust and prevent any future incidents.
The Department was one of the first in the State to utilize body cams on all officers, and have utilizing them for eight years. They have greatly increased the amount of warnings that are given in relation to the total number of traffic stops. Officers have been engaging in Crisis Intervention Team training, Fair and Impartial Policing training, Use of Force training, Verbal Skills training, and more.
Carter wants to set a high standard of reputability regarding interactions with the mentally ill, impoverished, and minorities. "Our officers make this possible," said Carter. "It's not me, it's them."