2016-07-13 ne-reservereturn

Standing beside Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, Reserve Deputy Mike Leitch talks at a news conference Tuesday about new training and standards for reserve deputies. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

The good ol’ boys network was palpable at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office under the hand of former Sheriff Stanley Glanz, according to Reserve Deputy Mike Leitch.

Leitch, 46, described that atmosphere as uncomfortable. He didn’t enjoy working around reserves or full-time deputies who received preferential treatment or supervisors who afforded them the protection.

As the reserve deputy closest to becoming reactivated since the reserve program was suspended last year, Leitch spoke with reporters Tuesday evening about his experiences with the program.

Over the weekend he began the 80-hour field patrol refresher course — the final step toward reinstatement in a reformed program with bolstered standards.

Leitch carried a message for the county’s citizens to help restore trust in a program battered by scandal.

“Any perceptions they may have had of a ‘buy-a-badge’ program, you can get that off your minds, because that’s certainly not the case,” he said.

Prominent changes to the program installed by Sheriff Vic Regalado include no more solo patrols or assignments on special operations teams or task forces, no tiered ranking system, and bolstered training-hour requirements.

Leitch, who is the construction manager for the Tulsa City-County Library system, said that under Glanz’s leadership he was an advanced reserve deputy who patrolled on his own. He said he won’t mind not going it alone anymore.

“Particularly in the day and age that we’re living in today and the threats to law enforcement, having essentially instant back up right there is certainly very comforting,” Leitch said.

There were about 129 reserves on the roster when Reserve Deputy Robert Bates mistook his revolver for a Taser and fatally shot Eric Harris on April 2, 2015. A scandal ensued that involved a leaked Sheriff’s Office document that contained allegations that Bates had benefited from falsified records, intimidation of subordinates and special treatment.

Leitch is one of 39 reserves remaining on the roster who recently passed fit-for-duty exams on the path toward reinstatement. There also is documentation that he has accumulated at least 736 training hours, which more than satisfies new standards.

Four others — Scott Good, Chris Griffin, Arthur Richey and Hastings Siegfried — also are close to returning.

In facilitating that effort, the Sheriff’s Office now is offering more training opportunities and making them available to reserves.

For example, Leitch said, he just took a patrol rifle class. He had been asking for several years to attend that sort of class, but for one reason or another his requests were denied by the prior administration.

He said he feels great moving forward, with “accountability at all levels” of the program being much more apparent.

“Everyone is held to a much higher standard,” Leitch said.

But as the scandal involving Bates and other top Sheriff’s Office officials unfolded, Leitch said it wasn’t easy to handle when people bombarded him with questions. He said he had never worked with Bates, having seen him only twice and not having had any interactions with him.

“I just had to keep in the front of my mind that it wasn’t me. This was someone else,” Leitch said. “This was several other someone elses that made these mistakes that allowed this to happen.

“Yes, it was embarrassing.”

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Corey Jones 918-581-8359

corey.jones@tulsaworld.com

Corey is a general assignment reporter who specializes in coverage of man-made earthquakes, criminal justice and dabbles in enterprise projects. He excels at annoying the city editor. Phone: 918-581-8359

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