Law enforcement, policing divides Norman Senate candidates
Two candidates vying for a state Senate seat in Norman are deeply divided on law enforcement and policing issues.
Standridge, 53, has represented the district for eight years and is vying for his final four-year term in the state Senate.
This summer, Scott, 26, voted to cut the Norman Police budget by $865,000, or 3.6%, a vote that outraged some city residents and ultimately led to the creation of Unite Norman that attempted to recall several sitting councilmembers and Norman Mayor Breea Clark.
The group did not attempt to recall Scott because her term on the council ended shortly after her vote on the budget.
Scott defended her vote on the police budget, saying she didn’t care whether it would help or hurt her politically. She said she was more concerned about the city’s budget, and criticized the police department for asking for a budget increase while the city was still reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic.
“For me, this had to do with the budget,” she said. “I didn’t care about my election coming up. I care about the city funds that are dwindling and we had a deficit. I made a really hard call, and it is what it is."
Standridge volunteered with Unite Norman, but said he had no personal problems with any member of the Norman City Council.
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“I was involved,” he said. “I do support that simply because I don’t think the citizens of the community want their police defunded. It was clearly a political move, the 11th-hour meeting ended up where that was the only agency that was cut.”
Standridge is already working on legislation in support of law enforcement that he plans to introduce next year if he’s re-elected. One of the bills he’s working on would make it harder for local governments to cut funding solely for police departments.
For example, Standridge pointed to several new school resource officers the city council approved for Norman Public Schools. City residents will have to approve an increase to the public safety sales tax to help fund the new officers.
Standridge’s legislation will seek to block the city council from cutting voter-approved police funding unless voters approve of the cuts in a citywide election.
“It absolutely is completely inappropriate to cut law enforcement for political purposes,” he said. “In other words, if a political subdivision cuts law enforcement and nothing else, it ought to make the citizens wonder why isn’t parks or some other area of government getting cut?”
Asked what sort of police reforms she’d like to see, Scott said reform isn’t a strong enough word for the systemic changes that are needed.
“Police reform, it’s not police reform, it’s like injustice system reform — the abolition of how our justice system works right now,” she said. “It’s the removal of these people that perpetuate violence on our communities.”
Scott pointed to law enforcement, district attorneys and the incarceration system as areas that need an overhaul.
She questioned why some local law enforcement entities have military-style armored vehicles. She also criticized Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater for charging several people protesting against police killings with felony offenses of terrorism.
Reforms should also include prioritizing rehabilitation over incarceration, she said.
Citing concerns about climate change, Scott said her top priority if elected would be to introduce legislation to improve Oklahoma's air and water quality.
She wants to overhaul Oklahoma's tax code to add a sales tax exemption for groceries and bring back the earned income tax credit, which helps low-income families. She wants to do away with income taxes for those living below the federal poverty line and advocated for taxing Oklahoma's billionaires to help the state through the pandemic.
Standridge, who opposed the 2018 legislation to boost a variety of taxes in order to raise teachers' salaries, said tax increases should only be done as a last resort.
Asked about his successes in the Senate, Standridge rattled off a list of legislative accomplishments on various topics. He's had legislation signed into law that increases accountability for domestic violence offenders, allows for third-party commercial driver license testing and attempts to divert more state contracts to Oklahoma businesses, as opposed to out-of-state firms. He also passed Right-to-Try legislation that has since been passed at the federal level to give terminally ill patients more treatment options.
A pharmacist, Standridge serves as Senate Majority Whip and chairs the chamber's Transportation Committee.
Scott is a former teacher who recently completed her Master's in Public Administration at the University of Oklahoma. She was the youngest person elected to the Norman City Council, and served in that capacity for two years.
She was arrested in Tulsa in June on a complaint of obstructing police for climbing a flagpole outside the BOK Center ahead of President Donald Trump's campaign rally. In recent months, Scott has faced intense criticism and harassment.
Senate District 15, which leans Republican, includes a large portion of Cleveland County and a small piece of Oklahoma County.