Pawnee County Sheriff's Office Sees Equipment Updates Through Grants

Sheriff Darrin Varnell says the department has been behind the times, basically living in the Wild West when it comes to equipment and training because of a lack of funding. But they say all of these upgrades will help them better serve the citizens and keep people safe. 

Wednesday, November 29th 2023, 5:16 pm



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The Pawnee County Sheriff says the department is finally entering the 21st century with equipment upgrades across the board. 

Until last week, the sheriff’s office had been using a radio system from the 1970s that didn’t allow them to communicate with surrounding agencies, so deputies were in the dark. The sheriff says the upgrades barely cost the county a dime and instead were paid for by grant money and donations.  

Sheriff Darrin Varnell says the department has been behind the times, basically living in the Wild West when it comes to equipment and training because of a lack of funding. But they say all of these upgrades will help them better serve the citizens and keep people safe. 

“It’s literally going from an old black and white tube TV to a flat or curved screen. There’s that much difference from where it was to where we are at today,” said Varnell.

There was a police chase last summer that started in Sand Springs and ended up in Pawnee County. There was a crash, shots fired, and a manhunt for the suspects, but deputies had no idea because they didn’t have the statewide radio system. They only knew what was going on by watching the live coverage on News on 6.

“It greatly affects the ability for the guys to get out and do their job, and ultimately, it affects the citizens,” said Varnell.

The sheriff says donations from other agencies like Tulsa and Creek County helped them get new radios last week, so now they can talk to any agency in the state. The sheriff says grant money paid for body cameras that are equipped with GPS tracking, SOS buttons and live streaming, which he says are lifelines for deputies.

Grant money also helped the department get new patrol cars, a digital fingerprinting system in the jail and other equipment. The sheriff says they’ve also installed new security cameras at the jail, which was paid for by leftover bond money. These cameras are digital and can help them keep inmates safer.

The sheriff says on top of the equipment upgrades, almost every deputy now has specialized training, including dealing with people in a mental health crisis.

“Training is a big issue, especially with mental health. Mental health is a huge issue in this day and age and something that can’t be ignored,” said Varnell. “You can’t stay stagnant in this line of work and expect to be effective. 

Varnell says there’s been a 35% drop in violent crime in the county in the last year, and he feels like the department is moving in the right direction.

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