13 05 2011

Harvey Pratt, OSBI

OSBI Forensic Artist HARVEY PRATT was recently interviewed by the Journal Record newspaper. A video of the interview can be seen here:

My Comment On The OSBI’s Bad Publicity In 2009 – 2010, part 2

9 12 2010

The criticism from December 2009 did not go away, and a news report on April 2, 2010 announced that the FBI was unhappy with the OSBI:

“The FBI offered the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation the assistance of its Child Abduction Response Team in the search for 7-year-old Aja Johnson , but their proposal was declined, FBI spokesman Gary Johnson said Thursday.”

I see two issues of interest to me in this development. One: the public criticism of the OSBI investigation of the Aja Johnson case; and Two: the FBI going public with such criticism.

The concerns over the unsolved Carol Daniels murder case of 2009 were still an on-going matter when the Aja Johnson case happened. By now it would be safe to say that publicity, the news media, and public relations in general at the OSBI may have become a “challenge.”

Then, in early April 2010, the Oklahoma City office of the FBI goes public with their criticism of the OSBI. This act on their part was highly unusual. What could have caused the local FBI officials to do this?

A few days later, OSBI responded. Spokeswoman Jessica Brown defended OSBI and it’s handling of high-profile homicide cases. Brown presented statistics for the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 showing the clearance rates for homicide cases handled by the OSBI. The statistics showed a clearance rate much higher than the national average.

The coverage of this press conference by the news media included references to additional unsolved homicides and interviews of victim’s relatives. The cases referred to by the news media were specifically from that five year time period, and were therefore a timely reference. The news media also touched on an important issue in one of it’s questions to Brown:

Asked whether they are spread too thin, she replied, “We could always use more agents.”

Brown had said in 2009 that “no agent has the luxury of working solely on one case” and “an average workload for agents is between 15 and 17 cases.” The key administrative detail here that has not quite been addressed is simply this: the OSBI does not have enough agents and has not had enough agents for many, many years.

This is the issue that should be under the microscope. In 1960, the OSBI had about 23 agents, including the Director. You can view their group photo here. How many agents does the OSBI currently have, and, what duties are they assigned to? In 2010 the OSBI had about 81 agent positions, including the director and other supervisors. About 7 of those positions were vacant due to retirements and resignations.

The Oklahoma legislature determines exactly how many employees are allowed in a state agency, including the OSBI. There are two aspects involved: the number of agents as set by the legislature, and, the amount of money allocated by the legislature. (Sometimes a few agent positions are funded by federal grants.) Because of the financial difficulties of state government and the resulting budget cuts, the amount of money provided to the OSBI is not always the same as the amount of money needed to fund all of the existing positions. Because of the budget problems, those 7 agent vacancies are unlikely to be filled anytime soon.

Of the 81 agent positions, about 50% are supervisors and agents in specialized units. For example, there were about 11 crime scene agents in 2010. It is to be expected that, like anywhere else, there will be agents who are gone on military leave, medical leave, etc.

In the end, during 2010 there were about 39 agents classified as “general assignment” who had the main responsibility for investigating homicides. These agents handle any crime category not already covered by a specialized unit.

Any of the 81 agents and supervisors may find themselves assisting in any homicide investigation in the state. But none of them exclusively work only homicide cases. There does not exist within the OSBI a full time homicide unit focused solely on homicide investigations. The 39 general assignment agents who handle the homicide investigation duties also work numerous other criminal investigations.

So, in 1960 there were about 20 or so OSBI agents. Fifty years later, there are only about double that amount who have the main responsibility for investigating homicides.

My Comment On The OSBI’s Bad Publicity In 2009 – 2010, part 1

26 07 2010

During my career at the OSBI, from 1977 through 2008, never have I seen the kind of bad publicity that has happened in 2009 – 2010. As an amateur historian, I have collected information about the history of the State Crime Bureau for about 25 years. And I have had a book published, “Alive If Possible, Dead If Necessary,” which describes Oklahoma law and order history of the 1920’s. The agency was created in 1925, and I think I can state with a high degree of accuracy that the agency has never before received this level of bad publicity and this much criticism. So, I am going to take a look at this publicity and offer a few of my own comments.

2009 – 2010 HEADLINES

Here are links to some of this year’s OSBI publicity:

DA Criticizes OSBI Over Carol Daniels Inquiry

OSBI Defends It’s Handling Of Homicide Cases

OSBI Defends It’s Record Of Closing Slaying Cases

FBI, OSBI Differ On Handling Of Aja Johnson Search

Errors Lead To Firing Of OSBI DNA Analyst

Family Contends OSBI Conducted Poor Inquiry

Victim’s Families, Others Have Lost Trust In OSBI

Were Oklahoma Homicide Cases Bungled

Investigator, OSBI Disagree On Arrest Tactics

Former Investigator Accuses OSBI Of Incompetence And Fraud

Ex-Investigator Says Oklahoma Bureau Flawed

December 6, 2009

News Story

This news story concerned a homicide investigation in Anadarko in 2009 and comments made by the District Attorney. The DA was quoted as saying he was very concerned about the progress of the case.

Of greater importance was the significant damage to the investigation by the news media when it worked hard to obtain the autopsy report and then publicized the details of the injuries to the homicide victim. Before this information was publicized, it was known only to a small handful of people such as the killer, the person who discovered the victim, and law enforcement. When Jessica Brown of the OSBI tells the news media “it’s hard for us to bring someone in for questioning. The answers are all out there” she could not be more on target. One of the largest and most valuable pieces of information in the case had been made absolutely useless.

This news story also noted that the OSBI director had denied a request for an interview.

MY COMMENT: The damage to the investigation had already happened and the dispute between the news media and the OSBI/OSBI director was already in place. Therefore, a no-win situation existed for the Bureau. Granting an interview to the news media was not going to reverse anything that had already happened and was not likely to improve the situation. Because of the work that the OSBI does, it is sometimes placed in a no-win situation.

Jessica Brown almost reveals the most significant administrative detail when she tells the news media “no agent has the luxury of working solely on one case” and “an average workload for agents is between 15 and 17 cases.”

Tilghman Proposed “State Rangers”

16 08 2009


Bill Tilghman

Bill Tilghman










Buffalo hunter, frontier lawman, police chief, sheriff, and state senator William Matthew Tilghman was one of the “best of the best” of Oklahoma lawmen. In 1915 Tilghman wrote ” Oklahoma needs a force of rangers…..The prosperity of Texas and the fact that it is not now a rendezvous for outlaws are due to the efficient work of the rangers……The same thing could be done in Oklahoma. If it is not done the outlaws now assembling in the state will soon rival the old-timers. They were finally wiped out, it is true, but time was required to do it.

No action was taken on Tilghman’s proposal until after his murder in late 1924.

The best source of information about Bill Tilghman is the book “Guardian of the Law, the Life and Times of William Matthew Tilghman” by author Glenn Shirley. The book was published in 1988 by Eaken Press.


13 08 2009

Oklahoma has a rich law and order history that stretches back to the days of Indian Territory. Part of that history is the story of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, sometimes called the “State Crime Bureau.” I was an OSBI agent for 25 years, and for most of that time I also collected OSBI history as a hobby. This blog is going to explore some of the well-known and not-so-well-known episodes of Oklahoma’s first state-wide law enforcement agency, the OSBI.