Pottawatomie County residents are being better served by a greater law enforcement presence as local agencies report the cooperation and teamwork is the best it’s ever been.
That was the consensus during a Law Enforcement Legislative Luncheon in Shawnee on Friday.
“It’s unbelievable the cooperation you have with law enforcement in this county,” said District Attorney Richard Smothermon, adding residents are safer because of their ongoing efforts.
Addressing a group of business and community leaders, Smothermon, along with Sheriff Mike Booth, Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz and Tecumseh Police Chief Gary Crosby, each spoke, with the common theme being cooperation.
Part of that cooperation includes the "dream" Smothermon had 10 years ago to expand his three-member Drugs and Violent Crimes Task Force that is funded with federal dollars.
This year, with additional manpower donated by local agencies, that team is now comprised of seven, he said.
Shawnee police have provided three full-time officers to the task force, while the sheriff’s office and Citizen Potawatomi Nation police have each dedicated one officer to the cause.
“Why is that important to you,” Smothermon said, telling the crowd that this year, that additional manpower was needed, as there were 10 homicides in his district, which includes Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties.
“For this area, I can’t even fathom that number,” Smothermon said, adding there’s usually two or three in a given year.
Smothermon credited the task force and tremendous cooperation between all agencies in the fact that in nine of the 10 murders, all but one has been solved. Defendants in the nine cases have been charged; while some have pled and sentenced and others are awaiting adjudication in what Smothermon believes will be life sentences. He’s also seeking the death penalty in two cases, he said.
“The cooperation of this task force is valuable to you,” Smothermon said.
Another example, as he pointed out, was a massive methamphetamine raid in June 2012 that resulted in 45 arrests.
Sparked by a tip, a joint investigation that included trash pulls, a 28-day around the clock wire tap, along with surveillance, led to 125 officers gathering one summer morning to “kick in 13 doors” and make arrests in the sweep.
Smothermon said 35 were arrested that day and 45 were ultimately arrested and charge in the case, with authorities seizing $145,000 in cash, 13 vehicles and four pounds of meth.
Smothermon said two pounds of pure, uncut methamphetamine tracked back to a Mexican Drug Cartel was being brought into Pottawatomie County “every other day.”
That’s a “huge amount,” and the two people responsible were living across the street form Tecumseh High School, he said. Because of the teamwork in that case, Smothermon said it’s made a big impact here.
Page 2 of 3 - “Because of that, I promise you are safer,” he said.
Frantz spoke about the cooerative efforts as well and how officers, along with dispatch personnel, work tirelessly to serve residents.
Frantz said Shawnee’s dispatch center answered 79,000 calls for service and officers took 7,420 reports. The department, with 56 officers, made 2,911 arrests and wrote 7,360 citations.
Last year, Frantz said Shawnee’s burglary rate decreased by 8.3 percent, while larcenies are down 17 percent.
“That’s tremendous,” the chief said.
Crosby also spoke about the ongoing cooperation efforts, adding he’s seen many ups and downs since becoming chief in Tecumseh in 1995.
“It’s never been better…we work in harmony and community with one another,” he said.
Even sitting down to enjoy a meal together, Crosby said it’s not uncommon that officers from many agencies will share things that can solve a case as they are often times searching for the same people.
And while Crosby said most people dread traffic tickets, he explained that it’s one way they help combat problems associated with fatality accidents.
He said at one point, Tecumseh had the deadliest stretch of roadway in Oklahoma.
With grants from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office to work drunk driving and other seat belts enforcements, Crosby said they are working to promote safety with seatbelt compliance, which can reduce fatalities and bring down the risk in this area, which in turn, can help lower car insurance rates.
He spoke of the “More Cops, More Stops” campaign that has begun, and said the “Click It or Ticket” campaign will be in May.
“We’re trying save lives,” Crosby said.
Sheriff Booth rounded out the presentation and also addressed road safety issues.
When he took office, Booth said Pottawatomie County was ranked third in the state for fatality accidents.
“I said ‘Not on my watch,’” Booth said, adding they now have a full-time deputy devoted to highway safety. He said all of the efforts are helping.
“Al of us together have made a huge difference,” Booth said.
Booth talked about second amendment rights and his position, along with the state’s other sheriffs on the issue of gun violence. He said they all agree that they won’t do anything that jeopardizes a citizen’s second amendment rights.
During the luncheon, Smothermon also acknowledged all of the activities going in the search for a bombing suspect in Boston, noting that police officer Sean Collier from MIT was killed in Boston during a gunfight.
Page 3 of 3 - “He was murdered…the community never saw that coming,” Smothermon said, asking everyone in the room to remember that local law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each day.
Senator Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, and Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, also made a few comments on legislative issues.