Why vote for sheriff?
Amongst the state senators and state supreme court justices on the November 8 ballot is the option to vote for either Vic Regalado or Rex Berry for Sheriff.
Regalado has been acting sheriff since former sheriff Stanley Glanz resigned midway through his seventh term. Regalado surpassed Berry in April in the special election meant to determine Glanz’ temporary replacement, becoming the first new sheriff to be elected in almost three decades. The November election will determine whether Regalado remains sheriff or Berry takes his place for the new term (Glanz’ old term ends December 31).
In most cities, the position of sheriff is decided by voters; in some cities, such as Denver, the sheriff is appointed by the mayor. Why should we bother voting for sheriff rather than just allowing a mayor to appoint one? I’ll admit that the position seems a little inconsequential compared to some of the other offices we’re voting for this November, and so long as the appointed sheriff has experience in law enforcement and is qualified to run a department, why does it matter what political party they identify with?
Well, friends, voting for sheriff allows the public to determine whether a “changing of the guard” is necessary. This is particularly relevant given the fact that the last Tulsa County Sheriff, Stanley Glanz, was indicted and resigned due to a grand jury investigation which resulted in two misdemeanor charges and a total of 21 civil rights violations cases involving the sheriff’s department. The misdemeanors and civil rights cases dealt with dead or injured inmates, a sexual assault, the shooting of an unarmed man by reserve deputy Robert Bates, accusations of excessive force and misuse of county resources. Time for a change of pace, wouldn’t you say?
Some have complained that sheriffs shouldn’t run with a certain party and that their qualifications should be the only determining factor in their appointment. In a perfect world I would agree. However, in the world we live in, everyone acts with a certain amount of bias. As you’ll see when you read each of their individual bios, the political alignment of each candidate affects their policy plan to a certain degree. Both seem to want to avoid repeating the mistakes of the previous department, but intend to go about doing so in different ways. Knowing a potential sheriff’s political alignment can help voters decide on a candidate that best aligns with their values and understands the law enforcement issues relevant to their community.
This is all a reminder that sheriffs are public officials whose positions do affect our daily lives, and because of that, it’s important for the public to have a say in the appointment of those officials. Without further ado, here’s a brief guide to the background and main policy points of each candidate.
So who do you vote for?
Both candidates for Tulsa County Sheriff are clearly qualified, with impressive backgrounds in law enforcement and police service. Both are clearly motivated by not making the mistakes of the previous sheriff’s office — also good.
The choice for Tulsa County Sheriff really comes down to your stance on the amount of power and involvement the sheriff’s office should have. Regalado has expressed a desire to maintain and stabilize the current status quo with improved leadership and competent, trained officers. Berry wants to make serious cuts which, while risky, could also do a lot to upend an administration which clearly wasn’t working very well.
As much as I really do support Regalado’s goals of stability and community cooperation, and while I think he’s done a decent job thus far in office, it makes me nervous that he’s doing little to change some of the practices that were controversial during the previous sheriff’s time. For that reason, I’d like to endorse Berry for sheriff — he plans to cut back on programs that have previously been draining to the sheriff’s office and rethink the department’s role in law enforcement. With the recent exposure of corruption and controversy surrounding the sheriff’s office, I think it’s wise to scale back and start anew, building the program back up while keeping in mind which aspects of are truly helpful for the safety and wellbeing of Tulsans and which aspects are unnecessary or even damaging.
D. Rex Berry
With considerably less in campaign donations ($9,996) than his opponent, Rex Berry is considered by some to be an underdog. He has made several comments directly challenging Regalado, even after Regalado was elected as acting sheriff: “I will sleep well tonight, I will be a grandfather and at the end of the month I will file again. So, Vic is not rid of me. He needs to be watching.”
Berry has considerable experience in law enforcement — he was a member of the Tulsa Police Department for 26 years, serving as a crime analyst, detective supervisor and a member of the hostage negotiations team. He began consulting with foreign law enforcement agencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan and Kosovo after retiring from TPD.
In contrast to Regalado, Berry plans to make serious changes to the sheriff’s office. He intends to “start changing the job descriptions from 1907” and wants the sheriff’s office to drop back into a supporting role rather than a “strong point of power.”
Berry would like to eliminate $1.5 million from the Sheriff’s Office budget by dissolving the 287(g) program and getting rid of the aforementioned training center. He believes that the 287(g) program polarizes the community, and has expressed that he sees no benefit to “stigmatizing undocumented human beings.” Berry claims that the unused training center is an unnecessary burden, especially in light of its location near the Tulsa Police Department’s training center.
He contends that the Violent Crimes/Drug Task Force is necessary in some situations, but would like to restrict it to temporary use “when there is a specific need and when clear guidelines are established.”
R. Vic Regalado
Vic Regalado has been acting sheriff since April and is the first ever Hispanic Tulsa County Sheriff. His election was not without controversy — before the special election, the Tulsa Democratic Party asked the ethics commission to investigate several donations to his campaign made on the same day by members of the same company (Regalado collected a total of nearly $180,000 in donations throughout his campaign). He also participated in a personal buyout in the Tulsa Police Department in 2013, moving up to take a retiring superior’s position a month early before his qualifying test scores expired, which he stated was a “long-held practice” in the department.Despite these controversies, Regalado beat Berry in the special election with 60 percent of the vote.
Regalado has extensive experience in law enforcement and has served as a homicide detective, a supervisor of the gang unit and a member of the Tulsa Police Department’s SWAT team. He has expressed a need for stability and leadership in the department, as well as an increased spirit of cooperation and citizen involvement.
Regalado intends to maintain many of the practices and services of the current department while eliminating the corruption and incompetence of the previous sheriff’s office. He plans to continue the 287(g) program, a local-federal partnership that gives the sheriff’s office powers of immigration enforcement including deportation. Regalado says that undocumented immigrants committing crimes “will be dealt with,” but that the program will provide law enforcement services regardless of race or ethnicity.
If funds allow, he would also like to revamp the sheriff’s office training center that’s currently unused due to the Tulsa County Jail’s budget shortfalls.
Regalado would like to continue the use of the Violent Crimes/Drug Task Force which was suspended in the wake of the shooting committed by volunteer reserve deputy Robert Bates, but with “highly trained, competent deputies… with proper supervision.” He maintains that the force targets the “worst of the worst” and is effective at removing drugs from Tulsa’s neighborhoods.