VOICE session with Oklahoma County Sheriff candidates set for August 20

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – A VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement) Accountability Session regarding the Oklahoma County Sheriff special election will be held on Sunday, August 20 from 3 – 4:30 p.m. at Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church, 1020 NE 42nd Street in Oklahoma City.
The three candidates – P.D. Taylor, Michael Hanson and Ed Grimes – will speak and answer questions related to VOICE’s agenda of issues in criminal justice reform. The event is free and open to the public.
The special election for Oklahoma County Sheriff will be held on Tuesday, September 12.
“This is a very important election,” notes the Rev. Ray Douglas, Senior Pastor of Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church and VOICE leader. “For the first time in 20 years, we will have newly elected leadership at the Sheriff’s Department and Oklahoma County Jail. A sheriff who will work with Oklahoma County citizens and be receptive to new ideas will open many doors to improvements.”
According to organizers, the accountability session will include stories from people illustrating some of the unacceptable conditions at the county jail, a briefing on the Vera Institute recommendations on criminal justice reform, and several calls to action.
Robin Wertz, a VOICE leader from Exodus House, works every day with people who have be released from incarceration. “Some of the conditions that we hear about at the county jail are ones that no living being should have to endure,” said Wertz. “There are many challenges that have to do with the current building, but others could be improved with a little political will.”
Exodus House is a faith based, residential program established for the purpose of equipping released ex-prisoners and their families to become productive, self-supporting, cohesive family units.
The special election for Oklahoma County Sheriff will be held on Tuesday, September 12.
VOICE is a nonpartisan group that does not endorse or support specific candidates. It does work to develop members’ skills in working effectively within the democratic process with civic leaders and public officials on issues of concern to families. The event is being co-hosted by the ALCU of Oklahoma.
The special election will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Sheriff John Whetsel, who retired effective March 1. Undersheriff P.D. Taylor, who is running in the special election, was named interim sheriff until Whetsel’s successor is elected.
Taylor defeated three candidates, Brett Macy, Mike Christian, and Darrell Sorrels, to win the Republican nomination in the April primary.
Taylor’s professional experience includes work with the Oklahoma City Police Department and service as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He has also served on the Oklahoma County Retirement Board, the Conditional Bond Board, the Drug Court Board, the Community Sentencing Board, the ABLE Commission, and the Planning Committee for Leadership Oklahoma City. He also served as a member of the Oklahoma Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association, and the Oklahoma Chiefs of Police
Candidate Michael Hanson, who defeated opponent Virgil Green in the Democratic primary, was a deputy sheriff with the Oklahoma County sheriff’s office prior to his decision to run for election.
Taylor and Hanson will face independent candidate Ed Grimes in the September general election.
Grimes has experience as the undersheriff of the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy in the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, and a master sergeant in the Oklahoma City Police Department. 
VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement) is a coalition of congregations, nonprofits, and worker associations in the Oklahoma City metro area.
These organizations work together to address challenges that people in their institutions face. In addition to criminal justice reform, the organization works on issues including public schools, payday loan reform, and economic justice.
“This could be one of VOICE’s most interesting accountability sessions yet,” said Sundra Flansburg, VOICE leader. “Not only are all three candidates committed to attend, but after hearing stories about some of the unacceptable conditions at the County Jail, we will call for a Citizen’s Review Panel, we’ll hear a brief overview about the proposed Vera Institute reforms, listen to pro and con statements related to the proposed MAPS extension (on the same Sept. 12 ballot as the sheriff election), and we will kick off a new project on criminal justice reform.”
For more information, visit the VOICE OKC Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/VOICEforokc/).