Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor criticized the Jail Trust Tuesday for not being ready to take over the jail January 1 and suggested that it may never be.
In a news conference, he announced that he is willing to continue to run the Oklahoma County Detention Center, or Jail, until April 15, giving the Jail Trust a total of 11 months to start running the jail.
His last statement may foreshadow what his approach will be over the first several months of 2020.
“Surely to God, you [Jail Trust] can take over and move forward in 11 months. If you cannot, then I question if you can ever,” said Taylor.
He said that he was offering the extension because “the district attorney’s not ready, the county is not ready, and the trust is not ready to take over January 1.”
He continued to criticize the Jail Trust for being formed in May and then still not being prepared to take control of the Jail by January 1.
“By April 15, that’s 11 months from the time that trust was signed, sealed and voted on and approved,” Taylor said. “In my opinion, if you can’t get it together in 11 months, then maybe you ought to look at this and see if you really want to do it.”
Response from Jail Trust
The Jail Trust Chair, Tricia Everest told Free Press in a text message later in the afternoon that the Trust is looking forward to working with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) “to tackle the many issues necessary for as smooth a transition as possible.”
But, she did not agree on a hard date for the transition.
“The Sheriff effectively expedited the process and I am optimistic we will see the transition if not in April before the end of the fiscal year,” Everest said.
Taylor said that up until the formation of the Jail Trust, he lost an average of “about 22 employees” each month.
“These last few months, we’ve been running about 45 employees leaving a month,” said Taylor.
He places the blame squarely on the uncertainty the formation of the Jail Trust has created and especially in Oklahoma County’s and the Jail Trust’s slow pace at getting ready for the hand-off to a new administrator.
So, in order to stem what he referred to a “hemorrhaging” of employees, he will ask the County Budget Board in a few weeks for either $5,000, $4,000, or $3,000 raises for his employees.
He said that he hopes if that is done he can get his jail employees up to a livable wage and perhaps encourage some of his most experienced employees who have quit of the last several months to come back.
Loss of experience
The drain of what Taylor estimates to be “600 or 700 years of experience” from his staff at the jail has been the worst aspect of the uncertainty, he said.
“When you’re hiring 18-year-old kids, for the most part, you can’t ever replace someone that’s got 25 to 35 years of service here.”
The plan is to use the raises he is requesting to lure experienced employees or anyone qualified to come to work for the jail so there will be a substantial staff ready when the Jail Trust is ready to take over.
Focus on law enforcement
Sheriff Taylor has requested use of the county-owned Krowse Center building at N.E. 36th and Martin Luther King Avenue once OCSO is no longer in charge of running the Jail.
He said in the last news conference and then Tuesday that he looks forward to focusing on law enforcement, especially in the unincorporated parts of Oklahoma County.
He said that currently he is only funded for 18 patrol officers, but would consider 35 to be the ideal number they would need to carry out their patrol duties.