Pruitt puts emphasis on public safety spending
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he is continuing efforts to challenge federal agencies that overstep their jurisdiction, while focusing attention on what he considers inadequate spending for public safety.
Pruitt was in Lawton Thursday to speak to members of the Downtown Kiwanis Club and to The Lawton Constitution's editorial board, after visiting with the Lawton Police Department. Pruitt said his discussion with new Lawton Police Chief James T. Smith included a new state law that, among other things, would provide local grants to combat crime. He said his visit was part of his office's efforts to reach out to law enforcement officials and discuss ways the Attorney General's Office could help their efforts.
"We can partner with local communities," Pruitt said, noting the new law soon would make $2 million in statewide grants available for local law enforcement agencies.
Those grants illustrate something Pruitt has been saying since he took office: Oklahoma must ramp up its support of public safety. He said while public safety should be the primary responsibility of government, it accounts for less than 11 percent of Oklahoma's state budget.
"We need to spend more on public safety," he told Kiwanis Club members, paraphrasing a former governor who said the way to decrease crime rates is to find the bad guys, put them in prison and keep them there. "That's how crime goes down."
Pruitt said that under-funding public safety means the state Pardon and Parole Board is basing its decisions on costs, rather than public safety. He noted two recent parole cases in which board members were willing to grant parole; in one drug-related case, members did approve parole, but Gov. Mary Fallin stepped in and denied it. Pruitt said the Pardon and Parole Board seeks to insert itself into the process, contrary to decisions by juries and judges, and it "is not right."
Responding to a question from local attorney John Mackey about whether that means he doesn't believe the governor should be taken out of the parole process, Pruitt said while he doesn't comment on pending actions, if he were to comment, Mackey's assessment "would be accurate."