In 2012, when Delaware County Sheriff Harlan Moore first ran for the office, he said his priority was to “restore trust to the sheriff’s department.”
On Thursday, just two weeks before his term ends, the county courthouse lawn was filled with representatives of police departments not only from the county but from surrounding counties and even from Missouri all telling tales of successes as they celebrated the sheriff’s eight years in office.
There were Highway Patrol officers, representatives of the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation as well as attorneys, staff members and various county officials.
Moore actually was the host of the gathering taking the opportunity to tell the crowd how much he appreciated their support and cooperation during his two terms in office.
When Moore took over the office the department had been rocked by a $13.5 million lawsuit stemming from alleged sexual advances and even rapes of female jail inmates by sheriff deputies.
In addition, Moore inherited a department with outdated equipment and officers without uniforms. Moore says he is most proud of the upgrades in technology, equipment and the training of his department employees.
Today the department has about 50 employees who are responsible for the protection of more than 700 square miles in the county. Moore says that this year’s COVID-19 has been the “worst experience” of his tenure changing the way the department interacts with residents. Moore is outgoing and believes in one-on-one contact. Those contacts have been greatly diminished since the pandemic struck.
During his tenure he has launched some innovative programs including obtaining a grant to hire a person trained to deal with domestic violence and an officer to deal with environmental issues. Moore says, “There is trash everywhere and we were able to hire an officer to concentrate on cleaning up areas that had become dumping grounds.” The program involved using inmates to help with the cleanup. He says unfortunately the grants used for those two programs were not renewed.
This is Moore’s fourth retirement. A native of Sapulpa, Moore joined the Navy after high school graduation and served three tours in Vietnam. After a short time with the Tulsa Police Department, he moved to the Denver area and spent 28.5 years with the Adams County Sheriff’s department.
After his first retirement, he returned to the Jay area and ran a competitive baseball league for a few years. In 2006 he was asked to interview for the position of interim police chief in Nevada, Missouri. While he didn’t get that job, they did hire him to be the city manager. When he joined the city, it was nearly broke and by using his business skills he was able to turn the city finances around. “I was living weekdays in Missouri and driving back here on the weekends,” Moore said.
He was then recruited by the mayor of Neosho to help that city get on a sound footing and decided to return to living full time on Grand Lake.
However, the turmoil in the sheriff’s department caught his attention, and in 2012 he beat out three other candidates for the position. Very matter of factly he said at the time, "After reading about the problems with the former administration, I felt that it was my duty to come out of retirement and run for sheriff."
Moore also promised during that first campaign to increase the salaries of the deputies and other employees. “When I took office, beginning deputies earned only $1,800 a month, or $21,600 a year. Today deputies earn 30 percent more than that, but Moore says they deserve more than the current $2,350 starting salary.
Other advances in the department include a regularly scheduled fleet rotation for the department’s vehicles as well as increased officer training and better firearms.
Moore has the respect of the other sheriffs in the state, currently serving as the president of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association. It turns out he will turn over that title in October as well.
He and his wife have four sons, one of whom is with a Colorado police department.
“All of my sons are very successful,” he noted and the couple plans to enjoy spending time with their five grandchildren.