Oklahoma parole board members worry about their safety
Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members discuss hiring security guards or moving to a secure location.
Pardon and Parole Board members agreed Thursday to make their monthly meetings safer — either by hiring security guards or moving to a secure location.
“It's kind of like having a 100-year flood,” said new board Chairman Marc Dreyer. “You might go 99 years and never have an incident but, then, when you have that one flood and it wipes you out, you think, ‘Why didn't I buy flood insurance?'
“So that's really where we are. We might go three years and never have anything happen, but the one time ... if someone was hurt — a board member was assaulted or a member of the public was injured — it'd be tragic,” said Dreyer, who is senior pastor at the Memorial Baptist Church in Tulsa.
“Then, people would be saying, ‘Why? Why didn't you?' especially since it's now on our record that we've been talking about our security,” Dreyer said. “If we now have an incident, I think we are hugely liable if we don't do ... everything we can do to be secure.”
Board members discussed hiring one or two off-duty uniformed police officers, troopers or sheriff's deputies to guard their three-day monthly meetings.
The board currently meets at the Hillside Community Corrections Center in northeast Oklahoma City. Those attending the meetings are asked to sign in but are not screened in any way.
Board members also discussed moving their meetings to the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.
Visitors would have to walk through a metal detector and have their belongings examined with an X-ray machine in order to attend any meetings at Mabel Bassett.
Board members agreed to try both approaches at future meetings before making a final decision.
“It's very secure. It's very nice,” board member Lynnell Harkins said of Mabel Bassett.
Board members say they worry about violence from someone disgruntled over their votes on inmates' parole requests.
Their worries were heightened by an online comment Tuesday on an Oklahoma City television station's website about a murderer's upcoming parole request. On News9.com, a reader wrote: “Knowing parole boards in Oklahoma they'll probably let him out. If so we can only hope the next time he murders it'll be someone on one of those parole boards.”