April 10, 2020
RE: Title 19 Section 510 County Sheriffs Qualifications
Each cycle of Sheriffs Elections the question comes up surrounding Title 19 Section 510 and as always, this office cannot provide legal opinions regarding Oklahoma Statutes. We can however issue an opinion regarding a statute especially when the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association was instrumental in drafting the language for that statute.
The statute County Sheriff Qualifications was last amended last in 2017 by HB1259. Added to that statute were two key points first the definition of a full-time peace officer and the second the amount of time required of four years as a duly certified peace officer.
In the statute the definition of a “peace officer” shall mean a full-time duly appointed or elected officer who is paid for working more than twenty-five (25) hours per week and whose duties are to preserve the public peace, protect life and property, prevent crime, serve warrants, and enforce state, federal or military laws and local ordinances of this state or any political subdivision thereof.
Also in the statute it states. Any person, otherwise qualified, who has been a resident of the State of Oklahoma for two (2) years, has been a registered voter of the party whose nomination he or she seeks, or a registered Independent, within the county from which such person seeks election for the six (6) months next preceding the first day of the filing period, is at least twenty-five (25) years of age next preceding the date of filing for office, possesses at least a high school education and has served as a duly certified peace officer, in a full-time capacity, for a period of four (4) years or more prior to the date of filing for the office of county sheriff, shall be eligible to hold the office of county sheriff or to file therefor.
The most common question is at what time does my four years start. It was the intent in drafting this language to have someone running for the office to have already completed the CLEET Basic Academy. Once they completed the academy CLEET is the entity that provides them with the certification to become a Peace Officer.
Therefor it is the opinion of the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association that the statute clearly references that a person must be a duly certified peace officer and that certification comes from Council on Law Enforcement Education &Training. The four-year calculation of time as a “duly certified Peace Officer” begins after receiving certification from The Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.
For purpose of the section in the statute the definition is clear on what a full-time peace officer is “a full-time peace officer is one who is paid for working as a Peace Officer more than twenty-five hours per week”.
Note: Nothing in this opinion addresses those enforcing federal, state or military laws.