Oklahoma County deputies are calling on concerned citizens to join the sheriff's office in coming up with solutions. The department is launching its first Citizens’ Advisory Board soon, and organizers are learning how to do it from neighboring communities.
This advisory board will cover everything from the history of the sheriff’s office to the operations at the jail in hopes of making the community stronger as a whole. Just as the Norman Police Department and Cleveland County Sheriff's Office have enlisted the help of their citizens, Oklahoma County is asking for sincere input.
“There’s an old saying. ‘You can only police the community as much as they want to be policed,’” says OCSO spokesman Mark Opgrande.
Opgrande says once the team is assembled, they will have unprecedented access to learn about each department under Sheriff PD Taylor and how funds are split.
“It’s an effort of total transparency,” Opgrande says. “There’s a lot of things law enforcement agencies can’t talk about, like ongoing criminal investigations and those kinds of things, but there’s so many more things that we can talk about and share with the public.”
A big factor in these discussions will be the Oklahoma County jail and the sheriff's office's efforts to maintain the infrastructure.
Opgrande admits, “It’s an open book here. People understand that the piping is old and leaks, the elevators break down, the air conditioning and the heating system goes in and out, and those are very expensive things to do.”
Budget has become the biggest burden for the sheriff. In recent years, cuts have stretched the money so thin that he can hardly cover all the various countywide operations that include investigations and inmate transfers to school resource officers and patrols.
“We have about 19 deputies that patrol right now,” Opgrande says. “A number of years back we had about 44.”
The sheriff hopes having citizens' opinions will cultivate new ideas and new funds. If you are interested in adding your input, be on the lookout for the application process opening soon.