Why was Bob Bates, a 73-year-old insurance company executive in Oklahoma, playing cop? The Washington Post says that is the question many are asking more than a week after an undercover Tulsa sheriff's operation went wrong, and a white reserve deputy sheriff shot and killed an unarmed black man, apparently by accident. Bates is not a real police officer. He's a reserve sheriff's deputy. Some fear he wasn't qualified to be one. The Tulsa World said Bates, who worked for a year as a police officer in 1964-65, chaired the Re-elect Sheriff (Stanley) Glanz Committee in 2012 and donated $2,500 to Glanz's campaign.
What was a reserve cop, aging or otherwise, doing with a weapon? It's common. Volunteer reserve officers have become a staple in the Tulsa sheriff's department, which reportedly uses about 100 of them, as well as in many other cities. It's not unusual for them to be out on assignment. By trade, they're bankers, doctors, lawyers, retired cops or even celebrities. They get varying degrees of training and they help the local police, not just by patrolling with them, usually at no cost, but also sometimes by bringing their own equipment, including weapons. Some departments request donations in exchange for the positions. The Oakley, Mi., police department asks for $1,200, Salon reports. “These people drop four or five grand and dress up to look like police,” Donna LaMontaine, president of the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Michigan, told the magazine. “I have a problem with that.” Many reserve officers have been hailed as heroes. Several have paid with their lives. Others have taken lives.