Boggess fighting crime, perceptions and cancer

By Conrad Easterday

As Grady County Sheriff Gary Boggess looks back on his first year, he can quote a list of numbers that measure his 365 days in office:

  • 3 rounds of chemotherapy
  • 47 deputies
  • 4 investigators
  • 1 ag investigator
  • 5th best county in Oklahoma for officer pay, up from 42nd
  • 8,000 children educated about the dangers of fentanyl
  • 1st county to have school resource officers in every district

But by far the most important metric from his first year is the increasing level of trust between the Sheriff’s Office and the people of Grady County since the term “Shady Grady” was in common usage.
“That was from years ago,” Boggess said. “No one trusted the Sheriff’s Office. That’s in the past.”
Nowhere is that two-way trust more in evidence than in the Office’s efforts to reduce drug use and drug sales.
“We’ve had a huge impact. Citizens are calling us. And those calls allow us to start an investigation,” Boggess said. “We identify the players then send in our SWAT team to execute the search warrants. We have high prosecution rates. (But) the citizens is the big thing. It all goes back to customer service mainly.”
Boggess encourages his deputies to get in their patrol vehicles to be seen by residents and to listen to what they have to say.
“I don’t want to see cars in the parking lot,” he explained. “I want them out there in the county.”
The burden of public relations doesn’t fall solely upon the deputies. The sheriff prefers a leadership role rather than being the “boss.”
“I’m very honored to hold this position,” Boggess said. “I welcome citizens if they want to talk to me. I will never turn a citizen away from a meeting with their sheriff.”
Boggess has met his first-year goal for increased manpower in the Sheriff’s Office. With 1,152 square miles to patrol, he will be asking for more in the future.
Some residents don’t understand the immediate need. Forty-seven certified deputies would seem to be enough. But residents of Grady County need protection 24/7, Boggess explained. Deputies only work one shift in a day and not all deputies are assigned to patrol duties. Typically, only two deputies are on patrol at a time.
To attract quality sheriff’s deputies, Boggess offers better than average pay. Grady County once ranked 42nd in pay for deputies. Now, the deputies are tied for fifth best in Oklahoma.
“Where you bring in good pay and good benefits, you get good, quality applications., We’re very selective,” he said.
Among the sheriff’s iniatives are placing a school resource officer in the county’s 14 school districts. Grady County is the first in the state to reach that standard. Officers have met with 8,000 children in the past year to educate them about the dangers of the potent opiod fentanyl.
Boggess has also added an agricultural investigator to his staff. The ag investigator looks into anything and everything to do with crimes on farms and ranches whether it be livestock theft or machinery theft. Again, “just talking” has done much to change perceptions about the Sheriff’s Office.
In a conversation with a rancher, Boggess learned his cattle had been stolen, and more than once, he had not reported it to the sheriff — all because of an incident 15 years prior when investigators failed to follow through. Once the rancher understood all the tools available to the new ag investigator and his willingness to use them, trust was restored.
“I tell my investigators you have to educate them about what we can do,” Boggess said. “We’ve accomplished a lot and made great strides, but we still have a ways to go.”
Assistance comes from the Grady County Board of Commissioners. The commissioners have backed him on everything he’s brought to them, Boggess said. Annual budget meetings with the board are an important and cooperative effort.
Not least among the challenges for his first year has been Boggess’ battle with cancer. He revealed the ongoing struggle last year at a Veteran’s Day address. The response from the residents of Grady has been overwhelming.
“Just the outpouring of love has been tremendous,” he said.
After three rounds of chemotherapy, with three more to go, there’s reason to be optimistic. Some of the cancer is gone, some is shrinking, and he hopes to have it beaten by April when he will file for his first full term in office. The chemotherapy takes its toll and Boggess works half days in the office and from home the remainder of the time.

chickashatoday | ChickashaToday.com Ret. Sheriff Jim Weir

Boggess was appointed to the post by the County Commission on Feb. 1 last year when former Sheriff Jim Weir retired. Boggess was serving as undersheriff at the time and was recommended by Weir. He has previously served as a state trooper, a bodyguard for the Oklahoma governor and a police officer.
“To me, our sheriffs are the leaders of this state, these counties,” he said. “I love the sheriff’s office. We’re selected by the citizens.”