District Attorney Jack Thorp has announced a plan for his office staff that he hopes will help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. His staff is comprised of nearly 50 employees in Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties.
“Our primary concern is the continuity of service for crime victims and their families, and working with our law enforcement partners within the four counties that comprise District 27,” Thorp said. “We also have a duty to protect those employees that work in District 27 who work diligently every day to deliver justice for our communities.”
Governor Kevin Stitt declared a state of emergency for Oklahoma on Sunday, March 15, and the State’s Chief Operating Officer, John Budd recommended all agencies immediately, where possible, assign state employees to work from home.
On Monday, March 16, the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order to Oklahoma’s district courts and court clerks effectively postponing most court proceedings for a minimum of 30 days.
Emergency matters, arraignments, bond hearings and other required proceedings will be considered on a case by case basis by the assigned judge.
The goal of the emergency declaration is to facilitate and enable cooperation among local, state and federal governments to carry out emergency functions and to protect the peace, health and safety of the public.
“I’ve taken steps to ensure staff members have the files and systems they need through a virtual private network they can securely access from the safety of their homes,” Thorp said.
The district attorney said to continue service to the public with minimal disruption, the DA’s office will keep at least one prosecutor and one support staff in each office in Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah and Wagoner Counties. In addition, an investigator will be in the District and on duty every week day and subject to call for any needed emergency.
Thorp said he will personally be on call 24/7 for the duration of this emergency.
“We will continue to serve the public as well as our state, county and municipal law enforcement partners throughout this pandemic,” he assured.
Thorp echoed recommendations from health care experts who stress social distancing, diligent hand washing/ hygiene and common sense.
“It has never been more important than it is today for us to band together and be considerate of each other,” Thorp said. “The nature of this illness dictates a shift in mindset – from acting based on how we feel, to acting based on the potential harm we could cause to others.
“We hope that by allowing our employees to continue to pay the bills by working from home, we will help contain the virus and buy some time until there is a vaccine or cure.”
Thorp said the emergency staffing plan will be in effect for 15 days, and he will reassess as circumstances warrant.