Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office voices concern with jail trust; commissioner says it could prevent federal takeover

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office is voicing its concerns with the formation of a jail trust.

We've told you about the jail trust before, county commissioners pushing for oversight after they were forced to pay millions in unpaid medical bills. Now, a sheriff's office employee said he's worried they won't be able pay officers to patrol all areas of Oklahoma County and school resource officers.

The jail trust will keep an eye on how money is spent, to prevent a federal takeover - but, now, the sheriff's office is concerned public safety may be at risk.

"If you happen to be one of the 35,000 people that live in unincorporated parts of Oklahoma County, you pick up the phone to dial 911, and there's nobody coming and we don't think that's reasonable," said Jim Anderson, Major of Operations with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office.

Anderson's now worried so much money from the general fund will be dedicated to jail operations that money for deputies to travel the county and also provide security at schools will no longer be available.

"The county general fund does not fund our patrol people, investigations or SROs in any way," Anderson said. "They're going to slowly starve out these areas just by diverting the funding that we use to pay for them."

Anderson is worried six out of eight voting jail trust members will be county commissioners, a powerful voting block that could choose to starve parts of the sheriff's budget.

County Commissioner Brian Maughn counters that everyone will suffer if jail deaths continue.

Worst case scenario? The Department of Justice takes over, and neither the sheriff's office or commissioners control the purse strings.

"I'm absolutely for school safety. I just think there are other agencies that can step up and do it," Maughn said. "I think even the grants that they're already taking, we'll go ahead and comply with those agencies so we're not the only source for doing it. We are, however, the only source responsible for our county jail."

Maughn said, if it's handed over to the DOJ, it's possible the taxpayers will foot the bill in property tax increases. It could be potentially as high as a 30 percent increase.