Welcome aboard one more time. We had a busy week and a lot of information has come to my attention to pass along to our readers this week. I am not sure where to start so I may have to throw a dart at the target.
We have made a lot of changes around the Sheriff's Office and the jail over the past few years. We have new lights, a new ceiling, new plumbing fixtures and a host of other improvements that have been added to the jail. We added five new jail staff members with the federal grant I wrote about last week. We added our own medical unit for the best ever inmate medical care in the jail. These improvements to the jail are all great news because they all increase the quality of the inmate care, but as the saying goes, progress may produce change and some days you may not like the change.
The one problem that has now surfaced is the federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) law. In the old days if your relative was booked into the jail after a fight and we sent him to hospital X to have his broken arm set, I could tell you that news because we were not a HIPAA-covered facility.
The addition of the Advanced Correction Healthcare (ACH) medical unit to our jail makes us a covered entity under the HIPAA law and we can no longer tell you that news. In fact, it is debatable if I can tell you we sent him to hospital X and I for sure cannot tell you about the medical problem.
The way around this, of course, is a medical information release of the type you all must fill out if you want the hospital staff where you are being treated to tell your relatives or wife anything about your medical condition or treatment. We are searching for a release that will cover PCSD, ACH, and Pulaski County in general against HIPAA-related lawsuits. Until we find that release, please be understanding of the problem. Once we do find it, please remember that if the inmate does not sign the release, then we are stuck and you get zip for info.
The budget news has soured. In last week's column, I wrote that I thought we were done and that we had achieved the best budget we ever had during my terms in office. However, we received $40,000 in additional inmate board bills the last week of December well after the Pulaski County payment deadline. Even worse, I did not find them in the payment-due bill stack until well after the first round of budget cuts. So I will meet with the County Commission again on Monday, Jan. 25, and we must slash another $40,000 from my budget. This is not looking good but right now I do not know where we are going with these cuts.
Our new jail staff has already paid off in a small way the first week. One midnight shift we had a lone deputy on duty in the Buckhorn area and he was on a call being backed up by the lone Waynesville city police officer on duty. They ended up with multiple suspects in custody, more than they could haul, and because we had two people on duty in the jail, the senior jail staff member grabbed the jail transport van and responded to their location. The jailer hauled in the prisoners and the deputy remained on scene for his follow-up investigation. This quick transport move saved a lot of time for the department and allowed the lone deputy to get back into service much more quickly.
We had an incident in Crocker where we backed up the Crocker police recently. We lucked out this day and had four deputies on duty (occurred right at shift change) and we responded in force to a man with a gun call. Even worse, the subject wanted a suicide by cop end result. While the new Crocker Police Chief, Stephen North, negotiated with the suspect, our Cpl. Regina Utley (supervisor on duty) along with Deputies Jimmy Bench, Kevin White and Travis Shaffer put together a quick plan to end the situation that was rapidly reaching the shooting point. Deputy Bench was able to sneak up to the passenger side of the pickup, open the door, and grab the suspect's gun hand. One shot was fired into the vehicle by the suspect as he struggled with Deputy Bench. Deputy Shaffer was then able to approach the passenger side with a Taser less-lethal device and subdue the suspect. End result: One live suspect in custody and no injury to any person.
I have interviewed my deputies and Chief North at length over the details of this incident. I am very pleased with the end result of this incident. The deputies on scene quickly formulated a sound plan of action based on the circumstances found at this specific scene and the plan worked to perfection. As usual, there are the second guessers out there who have many opinions about how this should have been handled. I would invite these people to obtain a POST certification and join a police force.
At a meeting two weeks ago I spoke with Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman and he told me that Maries County would be placing a law enforcement sales tax on the ballot in Maries County this year. Chris and I discussed our many budget woes at length that day and it was nice to find someone who probably has bigger problems with the budget then us. It sure would be nice if I could say Pulaski County was placing a law enforcement tax on the ballot. Hint! Hint!
On the vehicle front, the wrecked car we bought a few weeks ago has now been put back together with used parts from our bone yard and given a complete paint job. The sheriff's department markings have been added to the car and this next week Maj. Tom Cristoffer will begin to install the equipment and light bar on the vehicle. We should have this unit in service soon. Since the vehicle only has 34,000-some miles, it will become our newest and best car in the fleet the second it is ready for service.
I seem to have run out of space once again. Please drive with care and please stay out of my jail. We do not want your body in the jail nor the expense of housing your body in the jail. But if you do end up at the jail, be assured that the lights are bright!