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Restoring trust at TCSO

What should we look for in a sheriff?

Marq Lewis

Michelle Pollard

Editor’s note: Last April, a series of revelations in the wake of the shooting death of Eric Harris by a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy resulted in a scandal that devoured most of the year and ended with the public’s trust in the office greatly diminished. On March 1, a special primary election will be held to pick a new sheriff, followed by a general election on April 5. 

As founder of citizen activist group We The People Oklahoma, Marq Lewis helped draw the public’s attention to the scandal and initiated the grand jury petition that ultimately led to Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s indictment and ouster. 

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) is an integral part of law enforcement in Oklahoma. The office handles numerous duties including but not limited to security, maintaining the jail and, most importantly, protecting the citizens of Tulsa County. The new sheriff of the TCSO needs to be an individual of integrity, an effective leader, and a person who understands the needs of a diverse county. 

The recent scandals in the TCSO show that a leader can either make or break an organization. We have witnessed firsthand how favoritism, cronyism, and lack of accountability can erode morale in the office, along with the public’s respect. The next Tulsa County Sheriff now has the responsibility to restore what has been broken and to build a new and better TCSO.

The office of sheriff is an independent office and no individual or group hires or fires the sheriff. A sheriff must show the highest standards of integrity and must hold him or herself accountable not only to the office but to the public he or she serves. The election of an individual to the sheriff office’s highest position should not be taken lightly. That individual must be accountable to the citizens, the constitution of the state, and the Constitution of The United States of America. A sheriff must be able to work effectively with government officials and all local, state and federal law enforcement, and not allow ego to get in the way of his or her duties.

Recently, the TCSO has suffered a major blow to its credibility, honesty, accountability, morale, and pride because of leadership—or the lack thereof. Our county needs a sheriff who can cross bridges, build relationships with diverse communities, collaborate with other agencies, take criticism, respond quickly to problems and make the necessary policy changes to allow the TCSO and the jail to run more efficiently and effectively.

What kind of leader do you want in the sheriff’s office? What type of leadership will they bring? Will it be more of the same passive leadership or will there be a combination of the transformational, goal-oriented, active role-modeling that we deserve in a sheriff? What changes do they expect to accomplish? These are questions to consider as we, citizens of Tulsa County, choose who to elect. 

What should we look for in a sheriff? Someone who is accountable to all of the citizens of Tulsa County and not just to the political party he or she represents. We need a leader who understands how to handle a crisis situation. This individual needs to welcome diversity and have an office that represents the people of the county in all departments, including upper management.

The new sheriff must give the deputies and detention officers the necessary tools to do their jobs more effectively. We must have a fiscally responsible leader who employs the necessary technology without overspending. There should be no financial or familial ties to any contracting company working with the department or jail. The new sheriff must have zero tolerance for corruption in the department even if it involves associates, friends, or family members.

What should we look for in a sheriff? Someone who can support the needs of the employees in the TCSO along with the citizens of the county. The sheriff must demand adequate training for his staff and deputies in all areas, including mental health training. Ineffectively trained personnel leads to an ineffective department.

The new sheriff must also understand that inmates are people and not a commodity. Inmates are still citizens of the county and they have rights, which should be upheld, not violated. Abuses of inmates should not be tolerated. The sheriff must find a way to make sure those who are physically or mentally ill receive adequate and proper medical treatment by law. 

We The People Oklahoma presented the TCSO with a five-point plan to be used that can improve the relationship between the TCSO and the citizens of the county. The meetings we had with former acting sheriff Rick Weigel were informative and encouraging. These meetings need to continue with the new sheriff and action must be taken to adopt the five-point plan. 

Tulsa County needs someone who can restore much needed order and accountability to the TCSO.  It is a privilege and honor to be named Tulsa County Sheriff and the individual elected must understand service to the people comes before all else. This is what we, the people, are looking for in the new sheriff of Tulsa County.