“It’s like a slap in the face,” City marshal speaking out after learning plans to disband department

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A city marshal is speaking out after the city decided to disband the department.

"It's like a slap in the face," Ken Harris said.

Harris has worked as an OKC city marshal for two years.

Recently, his department received some disappointing news from the city.

"They made the determination that they were going to disband our unit with reduction in force,” Harris told NewsChannel 4.

Officials with the city say this is because of a state statute that limits the marshals from certain duties like making warrantless arrests and writing traffic and criminal citations.

"What it would take in order to resolve that, it just seemed it was the best interest of the city, we believe, that we have police officers do that job,” M.T Berry, assistant city manager, said.

However, the marshals feel that’s not the full story.

“I think it's a direct correlation with the fact that prior to my arrival, some of the city marshals filed a lawsuit for being housed in hazardous working conditions with our old office,” Harris said.

However, city officials said that issue was resolved and they haven’t heard from the marshals about the matter since.

M.T. Berry released this statement:

“The City’s Marshals are a valued, hardworking group of employees. The migration of their duties from the City Marshal classification to a Police Officer classification has to do with the City’s ongoing concern over their limited law enforcement authority as defined by state statute. Police officers have full law enforcement authority and training to respond to any problem that arises in the Municipal Courthouse. Any other claim asserted by the marshals have no validity.The marshals have been told the City’s Personnel Department will help place them in any vacant City positions they qualify for including police officers.”

Effective July 1, police officers will be taking over the marshal’s duties.

While the department is already short on officers, police say this won’t negatively affect their department.

"That limited budget has been transferred over to our budget. So, we're going to add those positions. Now keep in mind that originally we had 25 people that were going to be in this next police academy in August. So now we've bumped that up to 34,” Capt. Paco Balderrama, with the Oklahoma City Police Department, said.

For the marshals, they’re just trying to figure out what’s next.

"It's really unfortunate. I left another law enforcement agency to be a marshal. It was a lifelong dream to fulfill that. And to be treated with such disrespect, it's disheartening,” Harris said.

There are nine city marshals. The city is encouraging them to apply for positions with the police department.


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