MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 2, 2012

Lee seeks to unseat Pearson in Muskogee County sheriff contest

Though progress has been made to advance the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office, both candidates agree the next sheriff faces many tough decisions.

Incumbent Sheriff Charles Pearson said the jail and “just about every aspect of the office” has been overhauled since he took office in 2000.

His challenger, Roger Lee, said he has enough experience and knowledge to ensure that progress doesn’t stall should he unseat Pearson on Tuesday.

“The progress that’s been made, there will be more progress,” Lee said. “I’ll be an active sheriff.”

Pearson easily won June’s primary election, grabbing 64.49 percent of the vote to knock off four challengers for the post he’s held since 2000.

Pearson said his mission as sheriff is to keep the steady series of changes inside the office going.

“We’ve got deputies with new vehicles, new radios ... you know, when I started, deputies had to buy their own cars,” Pearson said. “I’ve made cooperation with our smaller community police stations a priority and have helped many get equipped with better technology.”

Pearson also listed jail renovations and the Muskogee County E-911 Center as big projects tackled during his time as sheriff.

Both agree there’s more to do.

“When I took over as sheriff, we had 10 female inmates a day,” Pearson said. “Now we have 65. We had just 200 inmates, total. Now we have 350.

“We have to find a way to add on to that jail and make more room. I believe there is a way to do that and not cost the taxpayers anything. But it will have to be done.”

Pearson mentioned the possibility of finding an existing city building to house low-risk inmates. He also said inmate work crews will be making an appearance in the next four years.

“There are inmates that can’t afford their fines,” Pearson said. “Instead of just sitting in jail, they’ll be productive — cleaning up illegal trash dumps, things like that.”

Lee said one way to deal with jail overcrowding is a proactive attempt to stop crime in rural areas.

“The sheriff’s jurisdiction is countywide,” Lee said. “Assisting police departments in smaller communities will help keep crime down and criminals out of jail.”

Lee said when he was an officer in the 1970s, Tulsa police would ask Muskogee why their criminals were making their way to Tulsa.

“We were policing it hard and keeping them out of Muskogee,” Lee said. “You can absolutely make it so drug dealers will leave your county, and that will lower crime.”

Pearson said he has worked hard recently to outfit small police stations with radios, allowing them to better communicate with deputies. The better those departments can do their job, the better the sheriff’s department can do its job, Pearson said.

Pearson also touted recent courthouse security measures as safety features done on his watch.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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