NORMAN — Amid a national crisis of confidence in the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve, the Cleveland County Sheriff's Department and the Norman Police Department are making efforts to improve community relations.
"We hope that members of Cleveland County Community Action Board, Police and Community Together (PACT) and other resources, come together to make us the national standard for running a detention center and change lives for the better," Cleveland County Sheriff Todd Gibson said.
Gibson announced the development of the Cleveland County CAB in April. The move came about three months after 35-year-old Marconia Kessee was found unresponsive in his cell, two hours after being booked into the Cleveland County jail.
Kessee later died at Norman Regional Hospital. His death was ruled accidental by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office in May, but his death prompted community outrage over his treatment at the hands of NPD officers and subsequent death following incarceration at the Cleveland County jail.
"The jail is our most critical component. It's our highest liability area, and also the least known about," Gibson said. "We believe that this will not only make a positive impact on our community, but also open the sheriff's office to transparency."
Gibson said he was hands off in selecting the nine-member board, which includes a nurse, two mental health professionals, and involved community members.
"I didn't want it to be a political positive," he said. "I wanted it to be a productive one."
The Cleveland County CAB will have its first meeting Thursday. Gibson said the meeting will be closed to the public due to security measures, HIPAA regulations, as well as operations security and personnel issues. Each member will be required to sign confidentiality agreements.
The Norman Police Department shared plans for its new Norman Citizens Advisory Board (NCAB), last week.
"All involved in the creation of NCAB share a vision of the purpose and scope of the board," Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey said. "I believe that the creation of NCAB will provide our department with yet another tool for community engagement outside of our ongoing efforts targeted at outreach and open dialogue such as Voices of Norman, Police Data Initiative, and Coffee with a Cop."
On Wednesday, Normanites will get a first glimpse of what the advisory board is all about during a community listening session at Norman Public Library East, 3051 Alameda St. The meeting is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. Information is also available on the Norman Police Department website, normanpd.normanok.gov.
"It is my intent that the department openly and honestly shares information with members of this board, and I anticipate receiving open and honest feedback," Humphrey said. "I believe members of NCAB will bring a vast level of expertise from outside of law enforcement, in order to help me make better-informed decisions taking into account outside perspectives and community impact."