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County Policy Creates Financial Incentive for Abuse and Misconduct by Oklahoma County Sheriffs
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — In a recent conversation with Harvey Miller, also known as internationally acclaimed “DJ Speedy”, it was brought to my attention that one of the deputies involved in Miller’s incident was charged in 2014 of negligent manslaughter. The incident resulted in a federal lawsuit settled for $500,000 which will ultimately be paid with interest by the property taxes of area residents.
According to the federal lawsuit filed by the daughter of the deceased Deputy Jacob Streeter was traveling south on the interstate at 108 mph, without his emergency lights or sirens on, in the dark of night, while typing into his onboard computer at the time of the crash.
County Commissioner Brian Maughan stated that “It was a great tragedy, and there’s no question the county was at fault,” at the settlement hearing. While Streeter was suspended from work without pay for four weeks Streeter continues employment with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s department.
This tragedy and resulting settlement is complicated by the policy that forces taxpayers to “pay the judgments back with interest through increased property taxes collected for three years for each judgment. The interest rate varies annually, but currently stands at 5.75 percent. In most cases, the interest has been going to bolster Oklahoma County Retirement System funds.” according to a recent article by Randy Ellis at NewsOK that cites the Streeter settlement.
In the face of this policy it is clear residents in Oklahoma County live in a reality which shields law enforcement from the very laws they are sworn to uphold while allowing misconduct of county employees to result in financial incentives for Oklahoma County and it’s employees. Unfortunately this lack of regard for justice empowers those in law enforcement who would misuse their authority and allows small infractions to fester into larger issues of life and death. Deputy Streeter was charged in 2009 of a similar rear-end crash that resulted in minimal injuries.
Law enforcement officials can and do determine the fate of the citizens they interact with on a daily basis. In many ways this financial incentive toward misconduct illustrates the mistrust felt toward law enforcement by communities of color who often experience law enforcement as judge, jury, and (literal as well as figurative) executioners of the law when perceived as being suspect of criminal activity.
Miller became aware of the prior charges against arresting Deputy Streeter while in pursuit of his civil case against Oklahoma County for the December 2018 traffic stop that resulted in the civil asset forfeiture of the nearly $150,000 cash he was travelling with during his trip from Los Angeles to his home in Atlanta. In a text Miller related “I worked my whole life to become the person that I am and for a cop, a human, to look at me and judge me like they did…”, this is “the worse thing they could do.”, said Miller, “I won’t stop until justice is served.”
The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, estimates that in 2014 alone the Department of Justice took in $4.5 billion in forfeited assets. The assets taken in annually by local and state police departments are doubtless even higher.
Historically used in cases of piracy and admiralty, in which a crime is alleged overseas, a civil forfeiture case is brought against the property, not the person. “The idea is based on a legal fiction that the property itself is guilty,”.
Casey McLerran is the Literary Editor at the Black Wall Street Times. She is a Sooner State transplant from Forest Hills, NY. McLerran arrived in Oklahoma at the age of three shortly after gentrification displaced her and her family out of their home in New York. At first glance, many think they have McLerran figured out. To be frank, she’s a biracial American young woman that unapologetically embraces her half-African identity — a feminist-womanist she is. Her pen operates as her voice as well as her sword. Her accolades include the 2018 Rural Oklahoma Poetry Museum’s Oklahoma Poem Award, a business management degree, and her three beautiful children. Her objective with the Black Wall Street Times is to elevate and amplify the literary art of modern black American culture, pay tribute to African-American literary trailblazers, all while simultaneously linking and introducing children to the world of colorful American writers.