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July 22nd was the regular meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority. Unlike most of the meetings of this newly impaneled body, the gallery was full of spectators who came to witness and offer comment on the topic of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers at the County Jail.

How the sausage gets made

Local government according to columnist Marty Peercy

In the presence of this cloud of witnesses the Trustees engaged in regular business as follows:

  • The meeting began with a roll call. All Trustees were present with the exception of M.T. Berry and Ben Brown. Brown arrived immediately after Item 4.
  • Minutes of the 7/15/19 meeting were approved
  • As a new body, a lot of processes have to be formalized. At this meeting, a set of parameters for scheduling and placing agenda items was formalized.
  • The Trust as of yet does not have a cohesive Action Plan. The body voted today to schedule a formal planning session with professional guidance on August 5 at 1 pm at OCU School of Law.
  • For Item 4, Trustee (and County Commissioner) Kevin Calvey asked that two more contracts for the County Jail be moved that the Trust request that the Board of County Commissioners not take action on renewing contracts for Commissary Services and Meal Services until such a time as the Trust has had the opportunity to provide feedback on those contracts. This was approved with the notable dissent of Sheriff Taylor.
  • Action was taken to appoint an additional trustee to the Sheriff’s Bid Evaluation Team. Last week Trustee Todd Lamb was appointed to that team with Ekwerekwu voting nay. This week Lamb said to the body that the “Trustee to [his] left” had expressed interest. Ekwerekwu responded, “The Trustee to your left is Ekwerekwu. I am interested in serving on this team.” Ekwerekwu was approved unanimously.
  • Two items were deferred as the necessary information had not yet been gathered.
  • There was discussion regarding “policies and practices of the Oklahoma County Detention Center concerning United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.” This was the marquee item on the agenda, and the reason the gallery was full.
  • The body voted unanimously to engage Oklahoma County Purchasing Department when the time comes for the body to make purchases.

ICE Concerns

The bulk of the formal meeting was taken up with a discussion of the agenda item regarding ICE and the County Jail.

Ben Brown requested this item and introduced it to the body. He referenced OKC Mayor David Holt’s recent comments about this being a city that welcomes everyone. He then said his understanding is that there are two ICE agents at the Jail and to Brown that seems counter to OKCPD’s policy. Brown also said, “And it’s counter to the kind of city I want to live in.”

Sheriff Taylor responded that no policies have changed regarding ICE in his time as Sheriff and that the Department follows federal statutes. Taylor said that the presence of these ICE agents expedites booking. He then asked Department Counsel Danny Honeycutt to address some questions.

Honeycutt came to the podium with Captains Bradley and Sedbrook, the jail administrators.

Department Response

Honeycutt explained that no policy has changed in recent years regarding ICE collaboration. He says the physical presence of ICE agents started in 2015 and before they simply notified ICE if they had a detainee that was undocumented. Honeycutt reported that the ICE agents played a clerical role and not an enforcement role.

Brown mentioned a recent Sheriff’s Department DUI checkpoint and asked if this kind of policing is good policy. Captain Sedbrook responded that “MADD might have an opinion about that.” Brown then explained that MADD does not create policy relating to the County Jail’s collaboration with ICE.

Sue Ann Arnall, Trustee, asked the two captains and Honeycutt how many people had ICE detained from the County Jail in 2019. For no reason that I can imagine, they didn’t have those numbers readily available and would not hazard an estimation. The first speaker during Public Comment had those numbers (131). It was not a great look for a Sheriff’s Department that has of late frequently seemed to be on the defensive.

Misdirected Anger

In total, more than 20 people had signed up to make comment at this meeting. Several had to leave before they got their turn.

Some people were willing to share their stories even though their stories were going to become a matter of public record. There was a great deal of impassioned speech and some harsh criticism of the Sheriff’s Department.

Marty Peercy
Marty Peercy (R) tweets out developments live during the meeting. He contributes a column for Free Press covering local government. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Many of the comments had a tone of anger toward the body they were addressing. I’m not here to say anger about this issue is out of line at all. However, the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Authority, as of this meeting, has no control or authority over the operations of the Oklahoma County Detention Center.

An important function of the Authority in its nascency is to gather information from experts and the public. In that way, it was necessary for them to hear these stories.

That said, only one person on the horseshoe during the meeting has the power to make an immediate change regarding collaboration with ICE at the jail. His name is Sheriff P.D. Taylor.

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Last Updated July 28, 2019, 8:13 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor