OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office says it has suffered a “significant loss of staff” following a recent vote by the Jail Trust Advisory Board.
For years, county leaders have argued that something needs to change at the Oklahoma County Jail.
Back in May, the Oklahoma County Commissioners voted to create a jail trust to help identify problems at the jail and come up with solutions.
The idea behind the trust was to transparently dole out funding to maintain and staff the jail. Instead of going through only the sheriff, those decisions would be made with the sheriff, a commissioner, and several citizens.
“It will have citizen oversight predominantly with the sheriff, and then Commissioner Calvey from the commissioners will round out the nine-member board,” said Commissioner Brian Maughan.
However, the plan for a jail trust wasn't without controversy.
For months, employees of the sheriff's office spoke out in opposition to the plan.
"To say that we are nervous about the future of the sheriff's office will forever be changed is an understatement," said Sgt. Paul Harmon, an investigator with the sheriff's office and a member of the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office Fraternal Order of Police 155.
However, Maughan says that it is the first priority of the county to maintain the jail, while the sheriff's office is supposed to maintain security and patrol unincorporated areas.
"The public wants to know exactly how much we need, and why do we need that much, and where is it going to be spent?" Maughan said. "And once that's disclosed, I think if it obviously mandates it, needs it, then they'll get it."
On Monday, the Jail Trust Advisory Board voted to appoint a new jail administrator. The vote to appoint a jail administrator means the administrator will run and operate the jail, and report directly to the trust.
Days after the vote, the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office announced that it was suspending certain programs due to a loss of staff.
"Due to a significant loss of staff the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office is suspending facility tours, and nonessential programs until further notice. This decision was made in the best interest of detainee and employee safety. We are currently experiencing a significant loss of senior staff and certified officers to retirements and resignations due to uncertainty surrounding the Oklahoma County Jail Trust and future jail administrator," a statement from the office read.
On Friday, the sheriff's office said the number of employees who have left has jumped to 46 in the month of August.