Culture

Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s culture of unpunished pursuits proves fatal

The State of Oklahoma has a policing problem. Specifically, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Last year, an Oklahoma state trooper chased a “possible stolen vehicle” at up to 125 mph based solely on the word of a motorist at a stoplight who stated he’ d pursued a pickup truck, according to Tulsa World.

The truck’s driver, a 14-year-old boy, sped up as state trooper Lt. Mark Warren initially approached in his marked Ford Explorer.

The fleeing teen soon clipped a vehicle and later another one, weaving through traffic and speeding recklessly through an occupied construction zone. Still, Warren assumed he and others could pursue and bring about “a safe end” to the chase despite seeing the hits and near -misses, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol major case file records.

In the end, the joyriding teen crashed into an uninvolved vehicle. Only a 7-year-old in the back would survive the crash, with his aunt and cousin dead in the front seat.

The family believes the police pursued them aggressively.

“It just seemed like (troopers) were on an adrenaline rush; they just wanted the perp, so they didn’t care what happened,” said Tredrick Johnson, the father of the young boy who survived the crash. “I feel like if they cared about the safety of the people on the streets they wouldn’t have pursued him like that.”

Lanise Dade, 31, and her 12-year-old daughter, Camyea, were the third and fourth uninvolved motorists to die during OHP pursuits in less than five years in Tulsa County.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Jerry Reagan gave family members a “minimal briefing” at the hospital about five hours after Dade and her daughter were killed, according to agency records. Johnson said he and his family didn’t actually learn until two days later that the chase began in Coweta on a word-of-mouth report that a truck possibly had been stolen.

According to Tulsa World, it reflects a deadly trend with the state’s Highway Patrol.

Despite a policy requiring troopers to weigh if the benefits of apprehension are worth a chase’s risks, in a five-year span, 15 OHP pursuits have killed 18 people — and at least eight of those killed weren’t the eluding drivers. Five were uninvolved motorists, at least two were passengers in fleeing vehicles, and one was an OHP lieutenant on foot struck by another trooper’s cruiser at high speed.

The Tulsa World’s ongoing investigation of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has uncovered reckless trooper actions, shoddy record-keeping, failure to address “alarming” concerns expressed by commanders, and refusal to review a fatal chase that OHP undertook in wintry conditions even though the stolen car’s location was being tracked electronically.

Public Safety Commissioner John Scully has avoided media requests for comments and dodged questions regarding policy changes.

According to Tulsa Worldno troopers have been disciplined in any of the fatal pursuits during the tenures of three different Department of Public Safety commissioners. With zero accountability, Oklahoma motorists ride in danger of a reckless and deputized brotherhood that continues to look the other way.

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