Now with full term as sheriff, Taylor plans restructuring

By: Brian Brus The Journal Record September 13, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY – Now that the election is over, P.D. Taylor said he is ready to follow through on plans to restructure the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Taylor, a Republican, won the three-candidate race with just over 50 percent of the vote, according to preliminary figures by the state Election Board. Democrat contender Mike Hanson came in far behind with 30 percent of the vote, followed by Independent candidate Ed Grimes at 20 percent.

Undersheriff Taylor became acting sheriff just a few months ago after John Whetsel announced his resignation during a department investigation by the district attorney’s office. Gov. Mary Fallin then called for a special election in April to finish out Whetsel’s term. Tuesday’s election starts a full, new term.

When Taylor first took over, he started shifting focus in the office, particularly jail budgeting and operational oversight. Whetsel’s management had led to a lawsuit for defaulting on health care service payments. And the jail has been under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice for years over civil rights violations.

On Wednesday, Taylor said it felt good to get both of his feet under him at last.

“There’s certain items that needed to wait until after the election,” Taylor said. “One of my problems was that most of the employees who supported me were kind of in limbo – ‘Who’s going to be sheriff, come Sept. 12? … Are you the interim sheriff; are you the acting sheriff; are you still the undersheriff?’ The whole process was kind of bizarre.”

Taylor said he met with about 40 employees early Wednesday to discuss how they’re going to change the entire culture of jail operations and their way of thinking about their jobs.

“We’re going to treat inmates with respect. We’re going to do what needs to be done in a large jail that’s as full as it is,” he said. “That cultural change needs to be agency-wide. There are people around here who are used to doing whatever they want to do under my predecessor, and those days are over.”

Taylor said he has always kept the balance of the office’s responsibilities in mind. By state law, he is responsible for maintaining the jail while enforcing law in unincorporated areas of the county, those areas outside city boundaries – in Oklahoma County, that’s about 150 square miles. Taylor said the patrol officers have been reduced in number as much as possible while still maintaining aid agreements with the smaller municipalities.

He also said the jail needs a new receiving area for the 50,000 detainees it receives each year, a new kitchen and new laundry area.

“If we’re not going to get a new facility, then, please, give me something to work with,” he said.

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