OKLAHOMA CITY — A law enforcement consolidation bill is headed to the House floor.
Senate Bill 1612 would consolidate the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Control, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation all under the Department of Public Safety.
The umbrella organization would be overseen by a commission that appoints a commissioner.
The measure, by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, passed the Senate last week by a vote of 37-6 and heads to the House for consideration.
“The biggest reason we looked at unification was because of retention, recruitment and training and trying to break down those silos we have in those law enforcement agencies where they don’t communicate well together,” David said.
She said the measure is needed to improve services through better collaboration and uniform training.
“We must ensure all public safety personnel get the same high-level training so they can easily move from one area of law enforcement to another, giving them more career opportunities whether they’re highway patrol or want to go into investigations, drug enforcement or other areas,” David said.
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David said the measure retains the integrity, mission and training of each agency.
Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, is the former director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
He was one of the more vocal critics of the measure and voted against it, calling it a “major shift in law enforcement.”
He was highly critical of the bill’s qualifications for the commissioner.
The bill says the commissioner shall have: a bachelor’s degree; five years of demonstrated, successful leadership experience; and relevant experience in law enforcement, public safety or a related field.
Weaver said the qualifications weren’t enough and didn’t require law enforcement experience.
“This will be the most powerful law enforcement officer in the history of this state, ever,” Weaver said.
He said lawmakers have more control over smaller agencies than they do larger ones, adding that the consolidation creates a “mega agency.”
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Weaver said.
The person will have control over wire taps and surveillance methods “that would probably scare some of you,” Weaver said.
A person who drives a pontoon boat on a lake should not be put on an aircraft carrier and told to drive it, he said.
Majority Floor Leader Greg McCortney, R-Ada, debated and voted against the measure.
McCortney said he was concerned about how much the measure would cost.
“There is a lot of power behind this idea,” McCortney said. “There are people who are pushing very hard and playing pretty dang rough to make this a reality this year.”
David said the bill is nowhere near finished.
The bill creates an 11-member Board of Public Safety, chaired by the Public Safety Secretary, a post appointed by the governor.
The Board of Public Safety would appoint the commissioner, set the commissioner’s salary and hear complaints against the commissioner, the measure states.
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