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DAs and local lawmakers discuss ways to work together

Posted at 12:51 PM, Jan 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 13:51:01-05

TULSA — District attorneys from eastern Oklahoma and area lawmakers met for the first time to discuss how they can work together moving forward.

Tulsa County DA Steve Kunzweiler organized a breakfast where they could all come together for the first time ever.

Tulsa, Creek, Washington, Rogers, Wagoner and Osage Counties were represented.

The DAs explained the human challenges they face in their jobs every day, like the struggle to fund their courthouse and the people who work there.

The Tulsa County Courthouse requires a minimum of $8.3 million to function, according to Kunzweiler. He said the state only provides 52-percent of that and he is required to come up with the rest.

Insufficient funds have a ripple effect. The DAs said the salary they can offer new prosecutors makes hiring a challenge when they are coming out of law school with more than $100,000 in student loan debt.

"We start our prosecutors at $40,000," Wagoner County DA Jack Thorp said. "I think if people actually see what a person does in that job, it's a vastly underpaid position."

They also talked about legislation to clearly lay out how long body camera footage should be stored. Storing the video is costly and there is nothing laid out to say how long law enforcement needs to keep it.

"It is pretty easy for me to know how different things affect me, my family, my relatives and people in my community, but it is important to hear from law enforcement and those people who have to deal with this on a day to day basis," District 11 Senator Kevin Matthews said.

Kunzweiler hopes after the meeting, the lawmakers will feel comfortable to pick up the phone and call one of the district attorneys if they have a question about proposed legislation. He said they can answer the impact it will have on their communities.

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