Kinda Sorta - Sheriff reconsidering punishments
Houdini alludes Sheriff Department
By: Pat Hunter
September 28, 2008
Illusionist Harry Houdini was known for his magic, stunts and incredible escapes. Now, the Sheriff's department is graced with their very own celebrity of sorts. Just last week, the Loudon County Sheriff’s Department made the news when a young prisoner a/k/a Houdini JR, escaped from the Justice Center, not one but three times. News of the fiasco followed, “Suspect eludes Loudon County officers 3 times” and “Loudon sheriff suspends 4 officers in escape fiasco.”
A final story ran about “Loudon County officers to be punished for escapes.” It seems that Sheriff Tim Guider is now having second thoughts about the 3-day suspensions of the 4 officers. The Sheriff is kinda sorta “reconsidering the punishments” the article mentioned.
When can the public expect an explanation as to why corrections brass became lax in their oversight of administration, training and security issues? What lessons did the Sheriff’s department learn from the escape artist? It sounds like the Sheriff should conduct an independent jailhouse audit of the escape that may help identify the procedures, which contributed to the recent jail escapes.
The articles described the prisoner escapes and final capture, which read more like a comedy script from Naked Gun and Sgt. Frank Drebin and the Police Squad or the Keystone Cops. As the story goes, an 18-year old prisoner outsmarted county deputies for a 10-hour period. The story unfolds with the chain of events including the breakout or walkout as the case may be, car theft, a purported car chase by the 2nd Top Cop Tony Aikens and the prisoner escaping by foot. The prisoner comes out of the woods and wanted something to drink and he gets locked into a shed with a cool drink and the officers come to arrest him due to the aid of a resident. The officers take the prisoner back to the jail where he manages to escape a 2nd time. The prisoner is recaptured but he ends up with a dog bite from the police dog and ends up at the hospital and gets loose a 3rd time where he ends up in the hospital ceiling where the officers pulled him down and he was taken into custody once again! As far fetched as this may sound, the prisoner escaped not once but three times while in the custody of police.
Over the years, taxpayers have spent millions in public monies in renovations and projects to address jail and court improvements, administrative offices, staffing and additional officers, step increases, training seminars, security, police cars and equipment.
The Sheriff Department is the 2nd largest county budget aside from schools. The FY 2008-2009 Sheriff Department Budget exceeded $3 Million in proposed expenditures and the Jail Department budget is an additional $1 Million plus. The Jail Budget included a new jail administrator, salary supplements, guards, part-time, over-time wages, benefits and other expenses. The jail is located on Hwy. 11 at Sugarlimb near numerous populated residential subdivisions and schools. With all of the Sheriff’s manpower and resources, how could this have happened?
Why wasn’t the jail administrator mentioned regarding disciplinary action? The Sheriff had no problem taking disciplinary action and/or ultimately firing the former jail administrator for infractions of the rules.
The Sheriff is the one of the highest paid officers in the county and he also earns a pay check for overseeing the jail, too. The buck stops with the Top Cop to account for his department and the bridge in security.
It’s time for the Sheriff to disclose what procedures he will put in place to prevent this from occurring again. For those residents who live within minutes from the jail, they have a right to know about their safety.
If this had been a dangerous criminal the ending could have been far more different with a far serious ending!
"Four Loudon County Sheriff's Office employees will be disciplined in connection with a series of escapes, but the exact nature of their punishment hasn't been decided, according to Sheriff Tim Guider.
The escapes happened over a 10-hour period Sunday, when 18-year-old Joshua O'Brien Hayworth of Loudon slipped away from officers during a short car chase and then escaped twice in separate incidents, once at the jail and again at a local hospital.
He was captured each time and faces charges of escape, felony theft, felony fleeing and vandalism.
Guider initially said the officers involved would each receive three-day suspensions without pay, but on Thursday indicated that he was reconsidering the punishments.
"We've been kind of analyzing this thing a little bit, and there might be some adjustments to one or two, but all will be disciplined," he said. "We'll be having a staff meeting next week."
Guider characterized Hayworth's escapes as difficult to thwart. "He was like Houdini," he said. "He was there one minute, gone the next."
Guider identified the officers who will be disciplined as Cpl. Daniel Ferguson, a corrections officer in the jail; Robbie Lane, also a corrections officer; Deputy Chris Jenkins, a patrol officer; and Deputy Charles Butler, also a patrol officer."
J.J. Stambaugh may be reached at 865-342-6307.