Police show up in force at council meeting
By Ken Childers
There was a heavy police presence at Monday evening’s regular meeting of the Okemah City Council.
The entire force turned out for the meeting, but there was no trouble brewing inside the walls of city hall. Police Chief Ed “Skeeter” Smith simply wanted to introduce his crew to the council.
“I wanted to take this time to introduce to you guys who the police officers are. They’re probably the most highly criticized bunch of employees you have,” Smith said. “Everyone seems to know more, a lot of times, than what theses guys do. They’re sworn to uphold the law, and that’s what they do. They’re very busy and highly productive. They solve a lot of crime and make this city proud.”
Smith then introduced the force, which has a combined total of 156 years of experience in law enforcement. Those introduced included Assistant Chief Doug Danker, Sgt. Carl Fletcher, Sgt. Stacey Rice, Jeff Ramsey, Charles Starkey, Jr., Jay Ashley and Ray Barrett.
Smith also shared some statistics with the council for the second quarter of the city’s fiscal year, which covers the period from Oct. 1, 2019 through the end of December. Smith reported that dispatch fielded a total of 1,782 calls during that time, 1,363 of which were police-related. Local officers handled 185 adult cases, 35 juvenile cases and responded to 19 traffic accidents. In addition, Okemah police arrested 56 adults, 11 juveniles and assisted with eight emergency orders of detention.
“I thought it was important that you see these guys and know who they are,” Smith told the council. “A lot of them don’t know who you guys are, and a lot of you don’t know who they are. They’re dedicated to making this town that they patrol the safest, and best place to live in the State of Oklahoma.”
Also during the meeting, in response to an earlier request from Mayor Mike Fuller, council members shared their 2020 goals and expectations.
Kelly West stated one of her goals in the form of a question. “How do we make things happen?” she asked, referring to delays in such projects as the rehabilitation of the water towers (which began several years ago, and only recently got underway) and the animal shelter, as well as getting abandoned houses torn down.
Ronnie Lucas said the council needs to keep focusing on improving the city streets, while Wayne Bacon said communication among council members needs to improve. “We as a council have to be on the same page at all times if we’re going to move forward. We are restricted [by law] how we can talk. Maybe we need to have an agenda item where we can freely speak amongst us all,” he said.
Ron Gott suggested that the council needs to be “proactive rather than reactive.” He added there needs to be a focus on bettering the city, as to entice people to move to Okemah. Affordable housing, a quality school system and employment opportunities were among the items mentioned by Gott.
The next council meeting is set for Monday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. at city hall. All city council meetings are open to the public.