Following a judge’s recent order that cleared the way for a lawsuit to move forward against the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, Rex Berry said Sheriff Vic Regalado has continued to do “business as usual.”
In October 2011, Elliot Williams, a mentally ill man, suffered in Tulsa’s David L. Moss Detention Center for more than five days with a broken neck before he died.
Last week, a federal judge found that the civil rights lawsuit filed by Williams’ family against the county can go forward.
Stanley Glanz, who was Tulsa County sheriff at the time, is an individual defendant in the lawsuit. Regalado, and by extension the county, is the “official capacity” defendant, though he was a homicide detective at the Tulsa Police Department when Williams died and not involved in jail operations.
Berry, the Tulsa County Democratic candidate for sheriff, held a press conference Monday morning to discuss the judge’s order and Regalado’s actions since he took office in April.
“It is irrational to believe that we can continue to expand our jail while the TCSO continues to employ the same methods and not expect deaths, injuries, lawsuits and property taxes to increase,” Berry said.
Berry also criticized Regalado’s refusal to release jail videos to the media that involve incidents where inmates experienced serious injuries, including neck injuries similar to Williams’.
Regalado did not return calls for comment for this story.
Jail deaths in Tulsa, such as Williams’, don’t appear to be isolated incidents, Berry said.
“Nor are there any indications that this type of administration is going to improve within the TCSO,” he said.
Jail conditions haven’t improved since Regalado took office, Berry said. Instead, requirements have been reduced to allow less experienced medical providers to have a contract with the jail, he said.
The Frontier reported earlier this month that Regalado changed a key standard for bidding on the lucrative jail contract after meeting with state Rep. Jon Echols, who donated to Regalado’s campaign and runs a company seeking the contract. Echols also donated to Luke Sherman’s and John Fitzpatrick’s campaigns.
The county previously required bidders to have experience in jails housing at least 1,000 inmates, but the change made by Regalado means companies holding contracts with only 500 inmates can now bid on the Tulsa Jail’s medical contract.
Echols said he wanted to allow Oklahoma companies the chance to compete for the contract.
In material distributed at the press conference Monday, Berry laid out his four-year plan for change in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
Berry, 66, said he plans on holding office for only four years before he returns to retirement.
Changes for the first year include switching the sheriff’s election to nonpartisan, placing the office’s internal affairs directly under the sheriff’s control and standardizing policies and procedures.
Berry said if he were elected, he would ask Luke Sherman to be his undersheriff.
Sherman told The Frontier he hasn’t discussed details with Berry, but he isn’t interested in the position.
Berry also said he doesn’t only want Glanz’s name removed from the Sheriff’s Office training center, but, if possible, he wants the building demolished.
“We do not need a monument to brutality and corruption,” he said.
During a Monday morning meeting, Tulsa County commissioners voted to remove Glanz’s name from the training center. Prior to the vote, Regalado told commissioners that a survey of TCSO employees found support for changing the name of the facility to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Training and Communications Center, which is the name commissioners voted to give it.
— kevin canfield (@KCFrontier) July 25, 2016
After the meeting, Regalado said the vote was “overwhelmingly” in favor of the name change.
Travis Jones, head of the Sheriff’s Office’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said keeping Glanz’s name attached to the project would have been a constant reminder of the difficult times at the agency.
“I think it (Glanz’s name) needed to go, not just for the office but for the community as a whole,” said Jones. “I think it was a good change.”