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Management plans distinguish candidates for Oklahoma County sheriff

Challenger Darrell Sorrels, a federal courthouse security officer, says he will streamline management, oppose new jail project; Incumbent Sheriff John Whetsel says he will continue successful track record of reducing crime and traffic accidents in unincorporated Oklahoma County.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: October 7, 2012

A retired sheriff's deputy who touts membership in a far right-wing political group said it's time for Oklahoma County voters to fire their sheriff of 16 years.

The incumbent sheriff, for his part, said his re-election campaign strategy is simple: He wants to continue his long, successful record of reducing crime and keeping county residents safe.

Darrell Sorrels, a self-professed member of the John Birch Society and a 2007 sheriff's department retiree, said he can do a better job of managing the department and the county jail than his former boss, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel.

With 800 full-time employees and a reserve deputy roster of 200, the sheriff oversees the county's largest department. Tasked with providing law enforcement for 150 square miles of unincorporated areas in the county, the sheriff's office also assists local police departments, serves process papers in criminal and civil cases, and manages the county jail.

Opposing views

Whetsel, sheriff since 1997, said crime incidents in the unincorporated areas of Oklahoma County have been reduced by 86 percent since he took office despite a fourfold increase in population. Traffic crashes were reduced by 92 percent during the same time period, he said.

He attributed the reductions to the establishment of a traffic safety unit, increased deputies in the department's patrol division and new crime prevention programs developed on his watch.

“We have been recognized nationally for the great things our employees are doing, and I think the citizens have recognized that and awarded that with very positive vote returns in past elections,” Whetsel said. “I have faith and confidence in our citizens to see what's going on … and to do that again.”

Sorrels, a contract officer for the U.S. Marshals Service, providing security at the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City, said he would boost morale and reduce turnover at the sheriff's department by streamlining its management and reallocating department funds so that law enforcement would have “a more visible presence in the county.”

Among other propositions: revise a top-heavy employee pay scale, auction excessive vehicles and equipment, and make the sheriff's department more transparent overall.

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