(Enid, OK) Candidates for the Garfield County Sheriff gave one last appeal to the public at Stride Bank Center on Tuesday evening. The three candidates took questions from citizens that ranged from excessive force, jail safety and police transparency.
The sheriff’s contenders received several questions from the county’s minority residents stating that they feared a wrong turn could turn in to a death sentence. When asked what non-white people should do when stopped by an officer, all three answered with be as compliant as possible.
Jody Helm has stressed a zero-tolerance policy on racial profiling, and disciplining the use of excessive force.
Dariel Momsen and Cory Rink stated diversity training and body cameras were more crucial to prevent racial profiling.
Both criticized Helm’s purchase of an $89,000 department-wide body- and vehicle-camera system.
Helm defended the purchase his opponents deemed too expensive, stating all the officers’ cameras automatically upload footage, which prevents any officer tampering.
Momsen and Rink said if deputies aren’t being trusted to upload their own videos, that indicates a larger trust issue in the department.
NAACP President Lanita Norwood, who helped organize the forum, also said the “posse” of armed residents gave her fearful thoughts of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by Neighborhood Watch member George Zimmerman in Florida.
“That scares me,” she said. “If they go to the classes that these gentlemen told us about, then that is awesome.”
Candidates also addressed operations at Garfield County Detention Facility, where the 2016 death of Black inmate Anthony Huff resulted in legal and organizational repercussions for the county.
“As sheriff, I want to make sure today … that we don’t have another loss of life in our detention center,” Rink said.
The sheriff still is responsible for the overall state of the jail, but Helm said the daily responsibility of the jail, its deputies and inmates is left to its administrator, Ben Crooks, who was hired in April.
Helm was appointed acting sheriff in 2018 and later sworn in as sheriff after the death of acting Sheriff and Undersheriff Rick Fagan. Fagan had served as acting sheriff since Sheriff Jerry Niles was indicted and went on administrative leave in relation to legal action concerning Huff’s death.
The primary election that includes the sheriff’s race is Tuesday.