Monday, January 27, 2020

Public Forum Monday for Chief Candidates

Franklin, Terry                                Abner, Chris

The two men running for the Sallisaw Police Department’s top job will take part in a public forum from 6-7:30 p.m. Monday at the People Inc. Conference Center.

Incumbent Chief Terry Franklin and Sallisaw Patrol Officer Chris Abner are running for chief of police in the Feb. 11 election.

The forum is sponsored by the Sequoyah County Times and KXMX, The Mix 105.1.

Darren Girdner, owner of G2 Media Group, the parent company of KXMX and Channel 19, said the public is invited to attend the event and it will also be broadcast live on The Mix 105.1 Facebook page.

As the election nears, the candidates discussed their plans for the department’s future.

Terry Franklin is seeking his third term in office. “It has been my honor to serve the great citizens of Sallisaw over the past 31 years -- six of them as chief of police. During my term, with your support, the Police Department has made enhancements by adding need­ed equipment and technology, improving the department and the safety and secu­rity of the citizens of Sallisaw.”

Since he has been chief of police, Frank­lin said, the department has installed an automatic fingerprinting sys­tem that sends scanned fingerprints electronically to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. Franklin said the system was paid for with drug forfeiture money.

The department has also been able to upgrade patrol units, allowing ev­ery officer in the patrol fleet to drive a Chevrolet Tahoe. Exceptions were made for detec­tives, who drive new Dodge Durangos that were also purchased with drug forfeiture mon­ey.

“We try to keep all our officers current with advanced equipment and training. We provide every officer with three forms of non-lethal weapons -- pepper spray, Tasers and batons. We’re always looking to find less lethal devices we can afford,” Franklin said. “Every patrol officer now has a body camera. All the officers are is­sued body cameras that have to be activat­ed when they make contact with citizens. We’re trying to get an automatic system to avoid human error.”
“We are a community policing agency and we do different things. We live in this community and need to con­tinue to be a part of it. (The officers are) friends and neighbors and that’s part of community policing. They can come in and talk to me any time they want to,” Franklin said.

Chris Abner, says he is running for the chief’s position because he believes in Sallisaw. “I am here for the community,” he said. His children are in school here and he likes the fact that there is “a church on every corner. It’s a way of life here.”

The opioid epidemic in the United States has Abner concerned, however. “I don’t want to see this city lose control of the drug situation.”

Abner, who has been with the SPD since January 2018, said his plans for the department include adding a non-lethal shotgun to the SPD’s arsenal of non-deadly weapons. “It’s just another tool to preserve life at all costs,” he said. Abner also wants to acquire a K-9 officer for the city’s police force.

“We have the money in grant funds to get a K-9,” he said, adding that the animal would provide yet another level of protection for SPD officers.

Abner, who has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police’s Sallisaw Lodge 148, said even though he is “not a politician,” his military experience has made him more than qualified for the chief’s position.

As a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, Abner was deployed three times to Iraq, where he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Phantom Fury and the battle of Najaf. In 2007, Abner was wounded in combat and awarded the Purple Heart.

Abner said that as chief of police, he would continue going on patrols with his officers so that he can be seen in the community. “There is no reason I still can’t patrol once a day. Putting on the uniform and letting the officers know I am here for them is very important to me. … I lead from the front, not from the rear,” he said.

Abner and his wife, Kristal, are the parents of 12-year-old son Wyatt and daughter Avalynn, 5. The Abners were touched by tragedy when their older daughter, Katelynn, died at age 5. In honor of Katelynn’s memory, Abner completed his first triathlon on the first anniversary of her passing.

That unimaginable loss, Abner said, has touched his law enforcement career as well, helping him better interact with victims and families that are touched by tragedy.

The forum will be in the standard format. Names will be drawn to determine the order of opening statements, questions and closing statements. Openings and closings must be three minutes long for each candidate and each will have two minutes to answer direct questions from forum moderator Marley Abell.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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