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Tulsa World editorial: We don't begrudge Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado's ad endorsing Sen. Jim Inhofe, but he should have left his uniform in the closet

Tulsa World editorial: We don't begrudge Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado's ad endorsing Sen. Jim Inhofe, but he should have left his uniform in the closet

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Inhofe Sheriff

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (center) visits with Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado (left) and some of his deputies during an August tour of the state collecting stories about the “good things” Oklahoma officers do so he can take them back to Washington.

Until it’s proven otherwise, we’ll accept that Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado’s uniformed appearance in a television ad for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is legal.

When Tulsa World reporter Randy Krehbiel responded to reader questions about the ad with inquiries to state and federal officials, they said that they couldn’t find any legal violation in Regalado’s actions.

But we expect more than the bare legal minimum from our sheriff.

An ad that was meant to emphasize Inhofe’s strong law-and-order principles is, instead, telling us that Regalado doesn’t have a proper understanding of what should and should not be part of the political sphere.

In this case, motive is critical.

Why was it important for Regalado to be in his khaki uniform when he endorsed Inhofe?

We can’t know what is in anyone’s heart, but the answer seems at least partially obvious. Regalado is a more compelling political proponent in the uniform than in street clothes. When he’s in the uniform, he is emblematic of much more.

That difference — the distinction between Vic Regalado the man and Vic Regalado in his sheriff’s uniform — is something that neither he nor the senator owns, and something that shouldn’t be use for partisan political purposes.

It takes the credibility of all Oklahoma law enforcement officers — Republicans, Democrats and independents — and uses it for something that isn’t, at its heart, about law enforcement. It makes anyone whose car has a bumper sticker for Inhofe’s Democratic opponent, Abby Broyles, wonder about why they were pulled over by a Tulsa County deputy. How should that voter feel, remembering Regalado’s promise that law enforcement would always have Jim Inhofe’s back? Always.

In short, the ad undercuts public trust in the sheriff’s office, which is why it is wrong.

As an American citizen, Regalado enjoys the same First Amendment rights as the rest of us, including the free speech right to make a political endorsement. No one should begrudge him that, and we don’t.

But as the sheriff of Tulsa County, he should consider how he exercises those rights so that he doesn’t inappropriately use public authority and the law as means to a political end.

As abuses of power go, it’s not the most egregious sin we’ve ever seen, but it does undercut our respect for Regalado a bit.

We wish he had the fiber to say to Inhofe’s people, “I’m glad to speak out for the senator because I believe in what he stands for, because I think his thinking matches my thinking, but I’ll be doing it in a business suit.”


Featured video:

Gallery: Jim Inhofe’s political career over the years

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We don't oppose charter schools or virtual charter schools. For some children, they are the best opportunity for a good public education, the editorial says. We do, however, want to feel certain that the state's insufficient education funding is being used appropriately and that Epic is being held to the same standards as any other public school. 

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