Sunday: State insurance agency buys guns, uniforms, body armor
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Saturday, December 08, 2012
12/08/12 at 3:10 PM
The Oklahoma Insurance Department has stepped up the presence of its anti-fraud unit, a move that is raising some eyebrows at the state Capitol.
In recent months, the unit has bought new police cars, shotguns, uniforms, badges, body armor and other equipment for the seven-member unit, and some are asking why.
“There’s no reason for John Doak to be rolling up to a business or any other area in a SWAT-style vehicle mounted with shotguns,” said state Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole. “That’s insanity.”
Doak’s duties are really pretty simple — regulate insurance companies and protect consumers — and anything involving higher order police work should be left to sheriff’s deputies and police officers, Coates said.
Coates said he had no issue with giving bullet-proof vests and handguns to insurance investigators, but the level of weapons and the vehicles Doak is buying are not justified.
“This whole idea of wanting to act like they’re a branch of the Department of Public Safety or a branch of law enforcement is insanity. They’re not. They’re in the stinking insurance oversight business,” Coates said.
Former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson said he was also puzzled by the purchases.
“I’m trying to think what the justification might be, and I can’t think of any,” said Edmondson, when the expenditures were described to him by the Tulsa World.
Edmondson said he hasn’t discussed the spending with state Insurance Commissioner John Doak, but his years in state government have proven to him that the anti-fraud unit’s work is exclusively in white-collar crime.
Read more in Sunday's World
John Doak, Oklahoma insurance commissioner, points out lettering on the back of a recently purchased Chevrolet Tahoe that reads "this car was paid for by fraud funds not at taxpayer expense," outside the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Insurance Department spent more than $180,000 on high-tech shotguns, bulletproof vests and seven police-package vehicles that agency officials say are needed as part of its expanded focus on criminal insurance fraud. SUE OGROCKI/Associated Press