GROVE, Okla. – Over the years Delaware County’s most problematic department has been its sheriff’s department.
Plagued with lack of funding, a high employee turnover rate, an overcrowded jail population, a $13.5 million-dollar judgment, and multiple lawsuits have prompted residents to clamor for a change.
Acting Sheriff James Beck and challenger Ray Thomas have the same goal of cleaning up the mess, bringing integrity to the office, and protecting its citizens.
The two men squared off on Friday during the Republican Party Forum.
“I am cleaning up Delaware County, but first I have to start with my own department,” Beck said after the debate.
During the debate, Beck was questioned about the arrest of a former employee.
“I don’t care if you work for us – if you break the law – you will be arrested,” Beck said. “You hold people accountable, including your own people.”
Beck said a background check was done on the former employee.
“He had absolutely no criminal history when we hired him,” Beck said.
“Training is very important,” Thomas said.
Thomas said if elected he plans on implementing a training program for all employees.
“I want higher quality training,” Thomas said. “You can’t get enough training.”
Thomas said when he sees an area that needs attention he wants to be able to offer specialized training.
For instance, if we have investigative reports returned to us from the district attorney’s office, Thomas said he wants to have the district attorney assist with getting more training in that area.
Both men want to hire more deputies.
“When I took over, we had 12 deputies, now we have 16 and we are using six trustees,” Beck said.
Beck was appointed acting sheriff in December by the Delaware County Commissioners due to the resignation of former sheriff Mark Berry.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as the “McGirt” decision was also a focal point of the debate.
The 2020 Supreme Court ruling upheld the jurisdictions of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Quapaw, and Seminole nations reservations and prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants.
“It’s a mess right now,” Thomas said of the McGirt cases.
Beck said he has a very good working relationship with the Cherokee Marshals.
“We have to work diligently with other agencies,” Beck said. “That’s the name of this game is to protect this county.
Thomas said he has worked with most of the other agencies and is in good standing with them.
“I am honest and passionate about my job and they know it,” Thomas said.
The debate can be viewed on the Delaware County Republican Party’s Facebook page.