Wayland Cubit (D) could be making history as either he or his opponent, Tommie Johson (R), will become the first Black sheriff in Oklahoma County.
Cubit is currently a Lieutenant in the Oklahoma City Police Department and considers his experience there—over 20 years—as a strong factor in his electability.
Free Press spoke to him over the phone to talk about how he plans to change the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office and how he wants to make his vision of a positive community-police dynamic a reality in Oklahoma County.
With less than a month left until the November elections, Free Press will be providing coverage of races in the Oklahoma City metro area in depth. By doing so, we hope that you, the reader, gain a better understanding of the choices you will have on November 3.
Cubit told us that “crime does not exist in a vacuum,” and cites issues such as poverty, mental health, lack of access to education, addiction and untreated trauma as root causes for crime in urban areas.
In 2010, he started an at-risk youth outreach program at the Oklahoma City Police Department called F.A.C.T (Family Awareness and Community Teamwork).
Cubit believes he can use what he learned at F.A.C.T to help employees at the county sheriff’s office understand these crime-causing issues and circumstances, which he considers a step towards creating more compassion-based policing.
“We can hold people accountable and be compassionate at the same time… in realizing that… [the arrested person’s] life goal was not to be the criminal that we’re arresting at the moment,” Cubit told Free Press.
He views “community policing” as a “community that actually embraces law enforcement as community members, not just those people who are in authority.”
TRUST AND #BLM
Creating community trust in the police, for Cubit, means being transparent. Some ways that he plans to do this as county sheriff include posting policy procedures on the sheriff’s website and supporting local police forces using body cameras.
However, the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd has forced Cubit to do more to show his willingness to be transparent with the community.
In August, he spoke at a March on Washington memorial in Oklahoma City covered by Free Press.
We quoted him saying “I am very uncomfortable in this spot right now. But you cannot have comfort and courage at the same time. You gotta pick one. So I’m here to listen. I’m here to see you, to hear you.”
When asked about Black Lives Matter he said that he supports the movement insofar as it champions equity, criminal justice reform, and social consciousness.
“I am here to hear people who are embracing the movement of Black Lives Matter—the social consciousness part of it. But there are other people who are embracing something other than that [which] is troublesome to hear as law enforcement,” Cubit said.
Sentiments like defunding police come from voices that he claims have “hijacked” the movement and strayed away from its core.
“When I hear ‘defund the police,’ a lot of people are meaning that they want to dismantle the police,” he told us. “That is contradictory to what people are saying in the movement of Black Lives Matter. What they’re saying is ‘we want police, we just want fair policing, we want justice policing.”’
Police Violence and the County Jail Trust
According to the organization Mapping Police Violence, Oklahoma has the second highest rate of police killings (people killed by police) in the nation based on census data from 2013 to 2019.
In terms of number of killings per police department, the Oklahoma City Police Department ranks second in the U.S.
“That rate has been disputed and what people call police violence and use of force is characterized differently depending on who you ask, so I really question the data,” he responded when asked about those numbers.
He elaborated further by saying that in order to combat police violence, there needs to be more training— in particular, cross training. This type of education would have officers train together with mental health professionals in order to help create a more cohesive understanding of who should intervene in certain situations.
Cubit believes this type of training could then allow law enforcement to call in mental health professionals when needed, in order to de-escalate potential violence, and also help mental health professionals understand when police are needed.
Cubit and his opponent, Tommie Johnson, will face off in a debate hosted by NonDoc on Thursday, October 22. The public is encouraged to view the live stream of the debate on News9.com or the News 9 Facebook page.