Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed a bill that would have banned private companies from participating in traffic stops.
Fallin called the bill well intentioned but overly broad in its scope.
“As written, this bill would restrict interagency cooperation and hinder law enforcement efforts across Oklahoma by not allowing law enforcement agencies to work with any entity outside of their department,” Fallin stated in a veto message Wednesday.
The bill was sparked by criticism surrounding a private company’s involvement in drug stops last year along Interstate 40.
More than $1 million was seized in the traffic stops before the Caddo County district attorney halted all such stops because of the criticism.
The bill stated: “Under no circumstances may a law enforcement agency or law enforcement task force authorize or allow a private non-law-enforcement or nondepartmental entity or person to conduct or actively participate in a roadside traffic stop or arrest for a violation of a state traffic law or municipal traffic ordinance.”
The state House of Representatives approved the bill 90-0. The Senate approved the bill 43-0.
The bill’s author, State Rep. Mike Shelton, said Thursday he hopes the Legislature will be open to overriding the veto.
“It’s a public safety issue,” Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said Thursday. “This is vigilante justice. They’re not qualified to do it. They’re just out there pulling people out of cars and things like that. ... When you have those things, you’re putting people at risk.”
He said the practice can lead to civil rights violations and lawsuits, as well as criminal cases against bad people that won’t hold up in court.
Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks, came under fire last summer for hiring a Guthrie company, Desert Snow LLC, to train his drug task force for one year.
Hicks agreed to pay the company 25 percent of all forfeited funds from stops involving its trainers.
Most of the stops involving the company were along a 21-mile stretch of I-40 in Caddo County.
Sometimes, no drugs were found and no one was arrested, but task force officers took money found in the vehicles anyway after a drug-sniffing dog got excited.
Hicks halted further stops by his task force after a judge criticized him July 2.
The judge became upset after Desert Snow founder Joe David testified he pulled over a pregnant driver himself and questioned her even though he is not a state-certified law enforcement officer.
“For people to pull over people on I-40 without that license is shocking to me,” the judge said.
Prosecutors eventually dropped all criminal cases arising from the drug stops.
Thousands of dollars in seized funds were returned.