Editor’s Note: Due to an unknown (as yet) technical problem, photos will not load on LR at this time. Such is the life of a one-person show. Since I’m not quite a techie person, I’ll just write and post the pics later when the problem is fixed. This interview with Mr. Grimes was conducted in late July but so much news in Luther kept me from transcribing it and writing it up. As fate would have it, the day I had the time, the pictures won’t load.
Oklahoma County voters will choose a new sheriff on September 12. You’ll recall, voters re-elected former Sheriff John Whetsel last November. He resigned last February. A primary election last April determined the candidates for the special election.
- Republican PD Taylor
- Democrat Mike Hanson
- Independent Ed Grimes
Grimes made a stop in Luther recently in what he called a “job interview” as part of his campaign. He called it a job interview because he said interviewing with reporters and anyone who wants to meet him helps voters and citizens decide whether to hire him on election day.
Grimes is a straight talker. Running as an independent, he said he’s not much for politics.
“I believe in transparency. Politicians don’t have that for whatever reason, I don’t understand. I work for the people. I’m a public servant. I don’t have anything to hide. If I have something to hide then I’m doing something wrong,” he said.
With a wide-ranging career in law enforcement, Grimes has been an Oklahoma City police officer, a US Marshall and undersheriff in Canadian County. When asked why he wants to lead the embattled Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office with chronic problems involving the overcrowded and moldy jail, high turnover in personnel and other issues, he said, “it’s a job I’m willing to take on.” Read more about his qualifications at his campaign website.
“I knew there were things going on in the the Sheriff’s office that were not right. On the outside looking in, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. He wants an inside look, and if elected says he will order an audit of every department in the first 100 days to evaluate budget issues and immediately work on a pay increase for all OCSO personnel.
“One of the biggest problems is the pay. We’ve got to raise it. When you can go work at 7-11 and make $13.50 an hour, all I gotta do is deal with drunks at 2 am wanting to buy beer, and be a nice guy regardless of what shift I’m on. Inside that jail, the majority are not nice people. The inmates are not there because they want to be. And to pay a person $12.50 an hour to put up with them, you’re going to have a high turnover,” he said.
That’s just one issue. Another one is the condition of the jail. With horror stories of overcrowding, mold and jail deaths, Grimes says it’s obvious a new facility must be built. But he said much can and should be done to fix the facility until then by being vigilant with budget dollars mixed with a little common sense ingenuity to fix what’s broken.
Grimes recounted a story that he says explains the mold problem in the jail’s basement. He said it was a $50 fix that went ignored for two years.
“This machine cost three-quarters of a million dollars to remove the steam out of the kitchen and laundry areas. There was no warranty on it and when it broke, maintenance who was untrained on the equipment couldn’t fix it. Moisture grows mold. Why wasn’t this machine fixed two years ago? Do investigating on it and it was determined a $50 switch that was out caused that problem. Now you and I, because we live in Oklahoma County, have to spend $700,000 (in taxes) to clean up the mess in the basement.”
He said that’s just the tip of the iceberg but admits he doesn’t know the breadth of the issues because he is on the outside looking in. But in Canadian County, where he said the jail is nice, his job was to keep track of all equipment, and report to the taxpayers that it was accounted for and in working order whether its vehicles, firearms and even the washer and dryer at the jail. He also said he has a good working relationship with county commissioners who help set the budget. Grimes explained he also knows the art of negotiation when it comes to asking for more funding and being a good steward of what’s entrusted to him, adding he also knows how to balance a checkbook, whether its his personal finances or the citizens’ tax dollars.
“We can manage with what we’ve got. We also need to reduce the number of inmates in the jail by fixing a bottleneck in booking,” he said. Grimes recounted stories of folks getting arrested, and being handcuffed to the wall for more than a day before they are ever booked or allowed to call a bondsman to make arrangements. He also said the glut in booking keeps the streets unsafe when an officer needs to stay at the jail before returning to duty.
Considering the distance from the jail in downtown Oklahoma City to Luther, in the furthest corner of Oklahoma County, he said that can leave areas without critical law enforcement presence.
However, Grimes is adamant that he will not pull patrols in unincorporated areas in eastern Oklahoma County, no matter what the budget issues are.
“Presence is important. Not only just to see patrol but to know that we are out here. Criminals live in rural areas also. Criminals also visit rural areas from the metro if they think there is less law enforcement so odds of getting caught are less than in the city,” he said.
Back in May, acting Sheriff PD Taylor had a public battle with the Oklahoma County Commissioners and budget board when OCSO didn’t get an extra $800,000 and Taylor indicated the shortage might affect the patrol division.
Grimes promised he wouldn’t cut his patrol division even if he has to patrol himself. “It’s unconstitutional. The sheriff’s office must patrol unincorporated areas that he’s responsible for. It’s against the law to not do that. Saying patrols will be cut is a scare tactic to get us to contact county commissioners to say ‘You big bullies, you need to give them the money.’ That’s not the case. The OCSO office has the same budget this year as they did last year,” Grimes said.
How important is the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s race to you? Coverage of the race has been scant, so it will be up to voters to do research to make an informed decision at the ballot box.
Grimes said he’ll have a “job interview” with anyone who wants to visit with him before the election September 12.
And his last words, “Vote for Ed Grimes if you want to see a change.”