COMMENTARY: No to the Magic Christian: The front-runner for Oklahoma County Sheriff is the worst choice. Both Taylor and Macy are better
OKLAHOMA CITY – In the Republican primary, two well-qualified men have stepped up, seeking to take the place of former Sheriff John Whetsel, who resigned a few weeks ago.
R. Brett Macy has never run for office, but a case can be made that new blood is what’s needed (so long as it’s qualified blood).
He served on the Oklahoma City Police force for a quarter-century (from 1989-2014), earning a fine record in a series of jobs in surveillance, undercover operations, patrol, criminal intelligence, inmate processing, supervision, and time on the FBI’s task force on violent crimes. Before that, he worked at the county sheriff’s office, including as a patrol/mental health deputy (giving him invaluable insight into what is, arguably, the greatest current challenge for the agency.
An honored officer, Macy is the son of the former county district attorney, Bob Macy – but Bob was a Democrat. For now, the sheriff’s job remains a partisan post, so Brett has to get his Republican affiliation noticed by voters.
P.D. Taylor has 45 years of law enforcement experience, and has the backing of the local Fraternal Order of Police and of the retired firefighters group. As undersheriff, he assumed the “acting” sheriff’s job in late February.
Taylor has spent the last 20 years at the Sheriff’s office, but was a city police officer for 26 years before that. He believes a new jail facility is needed, but pragmatically notes the present county leadership is unwilling to move on that idea.
He is bulking up officer overtime at the jail, changing inmate supervision, and redirecting patrol resources to unincorporated areas of the county.
Taylor made an analogy to a hulking “battleship,” noting a big agency may need time to redirect, and that the process has begun. Taylor was the FOP’s national member of the year in 1995.
The jail is a constant challenge. It was a problem 20 years ago, and it remains a problem today. Either one of these men have the qualifications to direct the difficult path ahead, to get the state’s most heavily-populated county out of the morass of jail-related problems that seem to afflict every large metropolitan area in the nation.
Taylor has laid out the beginnings of a jail reform program that could lay the basis for long range improvements. Macy said, in his announcement, it would be his job number one.
Either of these two veterans of the school of hard knocks can guide the county toward better facilities, humane management and professional transformation.
A third candidate, Darrell Sorrels, will probably finish last in the April 4 primary election, but to be clear: He would be a better nominee than the current front-runner.
Under the state’s new special election provisions, there are no runoffs. So, the front-runner in that primary will carry the party banner in the September general election.
While two Democrats are seeking the job, the Republican nominee will likely have the edge to win.
Without a doubt, the path toward jail reform is challenging, but there is no reason to think that former state Rep. Mike Christian is the right man to oversee any important aspect of county governance.
It is a source of dismay and disappointment that so many respected members of the Republican Party have supported him for the county’s top law enforcement job. Perhaps in the current special election they will rethink that support, remain silent, or even withdraw prior endorsements.
A polarizing figure in his own party, Christian’s history includes antagonism toward institutions of governance. Christian verbally shreds political opponents, other foes and critics, making wild assertions while questioning the worthiness of nearly everyone but himself.
In a debate forum before last year’s election, Christian was bombastic and irritable. He claimed the sheriff’s office has too many cars, too much equipment and too many people. If he had legitimate points, he didn’t make them well and was wrong on many details. Christian even asserted the county mounted patrol is as an example of unnecessary spending – although though law enforcement professionals are widely supportive of such patrols as an effective and humane crowd-control unit.
Christian has worked in law enforcement, and emphasizes his nine or so years with the Highway Patrol. He highlights the positives but does not mention a finding that he violated the patrol’s rules of conduct, leading to a two-day suspension for “immoral behavior” – an alcohol violation and a failure to be truthful.
Christian has all-but-ignored critical references in news stories and legislative actions concerning his role a few years ago in a dubious deal put together by a state House colleague, Randy Terrill, who was among other things a well-known bully who acted spitefully toward GOP leaders.
Last year, Christian inaccurately claimed in campaign literature that he had the support of U.S. Sen. James Lankford, U.S. Rep. Steve Russell and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole. In fact, not one in that trio of well-known Republicans backed him. That campaign flyer/mailer featured (without permission) photographs of all three – each of whom disavowed the mailer and the implied endorsement.
In more recent days, in election mailings already sent and in those almost certainly forthcoming, you’ll see no references to Christian’s close ties to a certain state senator, once his closest political ally and adviser. In fact, that person was the creator of Christian’s controversial mailer.
Last year, Christian often called for the former county sheriff to resign over his governance of the jail. He fancies himself a leader, but in the matter of Ralph Shortey, Mike Christian was mum until he played the game “follow the leader” – only after prominent Republicans called for his pal to leave the Legislature.
Christian is temperamental and hyper-partisan.
He has provoked negative scrutiny in each of his varied workplaces. In a county that needs the best, he is the worst choice among the four men running in the primary.
There are two qualified persons who want to become Oklahoma County sheriff.
In the opinion of your humble servant, the front-runner is not one of them.