McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

July 9, 2012

Sheriff eyes improvements

Randy Mitchell City Editor
The Ada News

Ada — John Christian, who was re-elected last week to a second term as Pontotoc County sheriff, says he’ll keep trying to improve the sheriff’s office.

“I think we’re on the right course,” Christian said. “We haven’t had, and I’ll knock on wood, a major crime committed in this county that hasn’t been solved since I’ve been sheriff. I’m very proud of that. Most of them were quickly solved because we didn’t stop until we had it taken care of. My goal is to keep that record.”

Christian said all law enforcement agencies in the county are working hard to keep the area safe.

“If anybody were to check our county, and you can do that through the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, compared to our surrounding counties, they’d be very proud of all that law enforcement has done,” Christian said. “It’s not just us. It’s all law enforcement. We get help from every agency that has jurisdiction in this county. It’s a combined effort with everybody to make this a safer county to live in, and I think it shows.”

Continuous improvement is his main goal.

One area of concern is visitation at Pontotoc County Justice Center. Christian said there have been problems with visitation due to the number of people visiting inmates.

“By fire marshal regulations, we have a capacity that we can have in that building, and people don’t understand that when they come to visit that I can only let so many people into the lobby area or I’ll be over the state fire marshal’s limit,” he said. “They get upset having to be outside in the heat, because when you have 40 or 50 people show up and there’s a limit of 25 people in that lobby at one time, about half will have to (wait) outside in the heat. So that’s angered a lot of people that we have this nice facility and they’re not allowed to come into the cool.”

Christian said he may have to change the days for visitation, which are normally on Saturdays and Sundays.

“I think that we can look at changing our days of visitation,” he said. “Of course, that’s going to anger people if I move certain (inmates visitation days) to the week because (relatives are) at work and would have to take off from work. It’s always problematic, no matter how you look at it.”

Christian said there are 160 to 170 inmates on average per day in the justice center.

“Almost half our the inmates are individuals waiting to be sent to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC),” Christian said. “They’re waiting for bed space there.”

The justice center is paid by the ODOC for housing inmates who have been sentenced. Christian said financially speaking, everything is OK at the justice center.

“As far as operations at the justice center, we’ve been in the black,” Christian said. “I haven’t had to go back the county and say, ‘Hey, we’re in trouble here.’ As a matter of fact, the justice center actually has a little money in reserve if a problem occurs. We’re in good shape right now.”

Christian said replacement of patrol vehicles is also a goal.

“We’re on the road to having our fleet completely updated,” Christian said. “We’re a little over halfway there now. I’m looking forward to completing that process. We have some vehicles with 250,000 miles on them.”

The sheriff’s department has also changed uniforms. Previous uniforms were black pants with gray shirts, but the new uniforms are spruce green.

Christian said many security guards in the Ada area are wearing the same uniforms as deputies.

“People weren’t able to distinguish one from the other a lot of the times,” Christian said. “That caused a problem, so we went to this color because there’s no other agency even close to that color. Hopefully, that will distinguish the sheriff’s office from other agencies.”