You don’t have to go all the way to Tulsa to dress up like a cop and shoot people. You can do it right here in Michigan. It’ll just cost you $1,200.

Two weeks ago, on April 2, a 73-year-old insurance company executive by the name of Robert Bates shot and killed an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This likely wouldn’t have made the national news, if not for the fact that Bates was dressed as a police officer at the time… something he was allowed to do by Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz. While it’s not clear that the two things are related, Bates had, in 2012, served as chairman of the Re-elect Sheriff Glanz Committee, and donated $2,500 to his campaign. Regardless of whether or not he was allowed to carry a gun and play cop because of his friendship and financial support of Glanz, it appears clear that Bates was ill-equiped for the job of “volunteer reserve officer,” as evidenced by the fact that he fatally shot a man in the back with his pistol, thinking that he was, in fact, firing a taser. [In a video released by Tulsa police this weekend, an upset Bates can be heard saying, “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”]

Making maters worse, it seems as though it’s not uncommon in today’s America to have men like Bates being allowed to dress and act like police officers. In fact, right up the road, in the small, 300-person town of Oakley, Michigan, you can play cop for a donation of just $1,200. The following clip comes from the Washington Post:

…It’s not all that uncommon. 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, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark told the Tulsa World. 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 even request donations in exchange for the positions. The Oakley, Mich., police department asks for $1,200, according to Salon.

“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”…

It’s kind of like fantasy baseball camp, but for well-off older men who would rather experience the thrill of holding a gun on a perp than run the bases with their childhood heroes.

But, according to a recent feature in the Detroit Metro Times, there’s another selling point to the Oakley reserve officer volunteer program. The approximately 150 individuals who have paid to participate, not only get to walk the streets of Oakley armed, and in uniform, but they get “a special gun permit, allowing them to pack heat anytime, anywhere — churches, sports stadiums, casinos, you name it.”

Oakley’s police chief, Rob Reznick, has done his best to keep the lucrative “pay to play” scheme under wraps, but, thanks to a recent lawsuit, certain elements of the program are coming to the surface, like the fact that Robert James Ritchie, better known to lovers of lowest common denominator music about how awesome it is to be both drunk and American as Kid Rock, is among those authorized to strut around the tiny village of Oakley like a badass law man.

So, if you want to get shot in the back by the likes of Kid Rock, come to Michigan.

[Wouldn’t that be a great addition to the Pure Michigan ad campaign?]

As Michigan towns continue to struggle to provide public services, I imagine we’ll begin to see more of this. We’ll see attempts, like we did recently in Ann Arbor, to replace trained officers with minimum wage-earning “ambassadors”, and we’ll see more police departments opening their doors to volunteer wannabe police officers. And, because we’d rather run the risk of being shot in the back by a drunken country hip-hop artist or an elderly insurance executive than pay taxes, we’ll accept it…

Hell, why not turn Detroit into an urban policing theme park for wealthy white men who want to experience the adrenaline rush that comes along with throwing concussion grenades through the windows of dilapidated houses and charging in with guns blazing? Now that’s an idea with some serious potential.

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  1. Stupid Hick
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    It’s even worse: according to the Metro Times article, the police chief operates a private debt collection agency, that leverages his official police status. How can that not be a conflict of interest? An excerpt:

    “Since 1992, he has owned and operated a firm called Due Process of Michigan, which collects and seizes money or property from individuals on behalf of law firms. In legalese, it’s known as “writs of execution.” In layman’s terms, it’s known as debt collecting. In this arrangement, Reznick had the added benefit of being deputized as an officer of the state.

    And Reznik was quite good at it, saying in one deposition that he has conducted “hundreds” of these searches over the years.

    “I was a sheriff’s deputy in numerous counties, and that’s all you need to be to serve executions against property,” Reznick said in the deposition he gave last year.”

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    These programs are intended to engage the citizenry to better appreciate the work of municipal employees. Some allow one to drive a snow plow, some allow one to train as cops. Ann Arbor has talked about doing something along these lines. The idea, as I understand it, is that if people better appreciate the work of gov’t, they’ll bitch less and participate more. I don’t think they actually make money from the whole deal. I think they are revenue neutral. It’s still a stupid idea. The Ann Arbor idea came up on a thread here a month or so back, and I suggested that citizens playing cops was not a great idea, especially in light of Aura Rosser etc. Because I’m a big party pooper.

  3. Mr. X
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    The two are different, I think, Jean. There’s a citizens police academy kind of thing in Ypsi that serves the purpose you’re talking about. The programs in Oakley and Tulsa, however, actually put people in uniforms and allow them to carry guns.

  4. Murph
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, the Oakley case is night-and-day from the type of citizens’ academy that Ypsi has and A2 has discussed.

    The Ypsi citizens’ academy enables its graduates to sign up to wear t-shirts and carry walkie-talkies as extra eyes and ears and “let’s help you find your mom” folks during festivals. I believe they are strictly forbidden from carrying weapons or even intervening personally in dangerous situations while serving in this capacity.

    The Oakley program allowed people to be Deputized as “reserve officers” in exchange for large cash donations to that village’s police department, giving them the legal power to carry concealed weapons basically anywhere, no matter what other rules apply — and only the village’s police chief even knew who these people were.

    Let’s not conflate the two.

  5. Stump
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    It sounds as though an ambitious cop got the bright idea that he could take over a small department in a 300 person town and start selling the statewide privilege to carry guns into places where only cops are allowed to. American ingenuity at its best.

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