NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Opinion: A new sheriff for Oklahoma County

Tommie Johnson is sworn in as Oklahoma County sheriff. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Tommie Johnson is sworn in as Oklahoma County sheriff. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Tommie Johnson III made a good first impression at his swearing-in Monday as the first Black sheriff in Oklahoma County history.

The 31-year-old Johnson, a Republican, won the job in November with 52% of the vote, defeating Democrat Wayland Cubit in a race between political newcomers. He assumed the office during a ceremony at U.S. Grant High School, his alma mater.

“This meant more to me than anything, to be able to come back and say ‘A young kid from the south side can make it,’” Johnson told the gathering. “We’re not all given the same starting point in life, but we can all work hard to get where we want in life. I’m an example of that.”

Johnson, a Norman police officer since 2015, said after winning election that he wanted to lead a “new era” where “public safety and community respect go hand-in-hand.” Purchasing body cameras for deputies will be his primary focus early on, he says, and he plans to foster better relationships in the community and improve fiscal transparency.

District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan said he was “really looking forward to his leadership. He has a spirit of cooperation.” Here’s wishing the new sheriff good luck.

Right message from Trump, but too late

President Trump struck the right tone with his videotaped message to the country Thursday night. However, it was much too little, too late. He spent the two months after the November election insisting it had been stolen, and Wednesday he urged supporters at a rally to join him in fighting to the end. What followed was the assault on the U.S. Capitol, one of the ugliest chapters in the nation’s history. “Now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” he said Thursday. “We must get on with the business of America.” He's right. He also pledged an orderly transition of power. “This moment calls for healing and reconciliation,” Trump said. Right again — and he should follow through by inviting President-elect Joe Biden and his wife to the White House for the traditional courtesy visit. Doing so might just provide some salve for a country that badly needs it.

Another effort to curb local control

A Republican state senator wants to keep cities and municipalities from imposing mask mandates related to COVID-19. We’ve seen this before from GOP members who otherwise say they support local control. Several years ago, an effort in Oklahoma City sought to let residents vote on whether to increase the minimum wage. The GOP-controlled Legislature promptly passed a bill banning that option. The Legislature also has mostly kept cities and counties from passing tobacco rules that are more stringent than state rules. Senate Bill 224 by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would pre-empt cities and towns from imposing or enforcing their own mask ordinances. More than 30 cities have issued mask ordinances since the start of the pandemic. City leaders in Broken Arrow have chosen not to. That is their prerogative, and it should remain that way for Broken Arrow and other municipalities. As Gov. Kevin Stitt has said repeatedly while not imposing a statewide mandate, the decision about mask use in public should be made at the local level. The Legislature should reject SB 224.

A startling update on coronavirus cases

Oklahoma had another troubling week on the coronavirus front. On Wednesday, the state Health Department reported 62 deaths during the previous 24 hours. As has been the case from the outset, the great majority of deaths listed in the report were people 65 or older. However, two of the victims were in the 18-35 age group and three were in the 36-49 age group. This update should serve as a reminder that people of all ages are susceptible to COVID-19, and that people of all ages need to take precautions. Vaccines are on the way but, but practicing the three Ws remains paramount — wash hands regularly, watch your distance from others, and wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible.


Opinion editor Owen Canfield is in his 18th year writing editorials for The Oklahoman and has spent nearly 40 years in journalism. Email him at or call (405) 475-3205. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a print or digital subscription at

Owen Canfield III

Owen Canfield has written editorials for The Oklahoman since 2003. Prior to that, he spent 19 years with The Associated Press in Oklahoma City. He is a 1981 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Lori, have four children. Read more ›