- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman, Nov. 6, 2016

Manhunt drama provided a high-profile reminder of Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s importance

Oklahomans cheered, and with good reason, the five Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers who risked their lives last week to successfully end a manhunt for a violent and heavily armed killer. These men exemplified professionalism.

Truth be told, the men and women of the OHP do the same every day, albeit without so high a profile, at a time when being a law enforcement officer in this country has never been more challenging and at time when Oklahoma’s troopers in particular are stretched thin.

There are 804 troopers on the job today, responsible for patrolling nearly 100,000 miles of roadway in addition to about 4,000 miles of shoreline on state lakes. About one-fourth of the OHP’s roster is retirement eligible at any given time, which understandably gives pause to Michael Thompson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

Several years ago, the OHP crunched the numbers and concluded that 1,104 troopers would be the ideal complement. At a minimum, the agency said then, it should have 950 troopers. The current figure is well below that, with the potential - in part because budget constraints have dictated there will be no trooper academy in 2017 - for the ranks to fall to the 750 range by 2018.

That would be the leanest the OHP has been during Chief Ricky Adams’ 31 years with the department. “That’s a real threat to public safety all by itself,” Adams said during a recent visit with The Oklahoman’s editorial board. “We are the cavalry. We’re your primary state police agency in all the counties in the state - as long as we’re there. Part of that is numbers.”

In the three years leading up to Thompson being named DPS commissioner in 2011, the OHP held no academies to train new troopers, which affected the agency’s manpower. Academies have been held each of the past five years, but a hiccup will occur next year as the OHP, like so many state agencies, makes do with less money. The Legislature appropriated $87 million for this fiscal year, $14 million less than requested.

The DPS umbrella also covers not just the patrol, but roughly 600 civilian employees who handle such things as driver’s license tests and renewals, and administrative services such DUI hearings, records management and issuing size and weigh permits for trucks.

This area of DPS has concerns of its own, particularly outdated computer software at the core of the operation. One small example: New drivers can go online to schedule an appointment to take their test, but the portal doesn’t allow for the applicant to fill out all the personal information DPS needs. That still takes place on site.

In August, Thompson said he was considering furloughs for up to 23 days for all employees, including troopers. That’s no longer the case, but he’s still seeking a $6 million supplemental appropriation from the Legislature to make it through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Lawmakers helped DPS a few years ago with bill boosting starting pay for troopers, making OHP more competitive with other law enforcement agencies. The state budget remains tight, but Thompson’s request merits all due consideration. Last weekend’s drama in Custer County provided a striking reminder of the agency’s importance.


Tulsa World, Nov. 2, 2016

TU goes from one great leader to another

Gerard Clancy became the 20th president of the University of Tulsa on Tuesday.

Steadman Upham, who became president emeritus in the same process, announced the change in a “dear colleagues” email to faculty and staff late Monday.

TU trustees named Clancy the school’s president-designate in May, so the change is not a surprise, although the timing is: The original plan was for Upham to stay at the helm through the end of the year.

“This announcement comes about eight weeks earlier than we initially planned, but Gerry and I agree, and the board concurs, there is no reason to delay the transition further,” Upham wrote. “Gerry will be an exemplary president for TU. He has served TU and the Tulsa community with enormous energy and a boundless supply of innovative ideas.”

We agree with Upham’s evaluation of Clancy. His work as president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and subsequently as TU’s vice president of health affairs and dean of the Oxley College of Health Sciences have changed the face of health care in Tulsa, and set the city in a new direction that transcends medical issues.

We already know Clancy is a transformative leader, and we are incredibly excited about his potential at the school that shares our city’s name.

The quick change means there won’t be sufficient time to plan a proper send-off for Upham, but he deserves a ticker-tape parade and a loving cup.

Upham became TU’s 19th president in 2004 and remolded the school physically, intellectually and emotionally. His steady, effective leadership has put the school on track for great things.

After eight years of success, Upham stepped down in 2012, but when his first successor didn’t work out, he agreed to cancel his retirement plans and come back to the school he loved. The aborted transition of 2012 could have been a disaster for the school, but Upham used it to continue the progress he had started.

His 12 years at TU gives him the third-longest tenure in the school’s leadership, but in many eyes he will be at the very top in terms of accomplishments.

TU goes from one great leader to another, and there’s no reason to wait to celebrate that.


Enid News & Eagle, Nov. 7, 2016

Successful conviction

After a seven-day trial, the Garfield County jury deliberated for less than four hours Tuesday afternoon before finding a former Enid man guilty of the first-degree murder of Heath Crites on Dec. 22, 2012.

When officers arrived on that date, they found Crites dead on his living room floor at 301 E. Columbia with multiple gunshot wounds to his torso and extremities.

We’d like to compliment the Enid Police Department’s detective work in the Crites murder case.

This was a more complex case because there did not appear to be a close connection between the victim and the suspects.

The holiday murder caused slightly greater unrest in the community because it was unsolved for more than two months, because of earlier unsolved murders, and because there was no obvious motive. A killer was likely lurking somewhere in our community, and that’s a very uneasy feeling.

During a pretrial hearing, Enid Police Department Sgt. Tim Doyle testified Enid police were contacted by Oklahoma City police about a homicide they were investigating. After speaking, the detectives learned the same gun was used in a murder in Oklahoma City in October 2012 and the murder of Crites two months later in Enid.

But, police pieced together a disparate set of clues and figured it out. And it was enough for a conviction, which was refreshing because the recent success record has been less than stellar.

In his closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Paul Hesse told jurors defendant Ronnie Eugene Fuston killed Crites for one reason: to not leave any witnesses.

“The defendant made sure Crites would not be able to testify,” Hesse said. “He made sure by shooting him at least nine times.”

Kudos to District Attorney Mike Fields and ADA Hesse for doing a good job. We’re thankful that communication between law enforcement and prosecutors worked to win this case.

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