Bradley County, TN - The Bradley County Sheriff's Office's refusal to book prisoners with medical conditions is finally getting attention now that somebody was killed.
Bradley County Sheriff's Office has been jeopardizing public safety over politics about who would pay for inmates' medical care, and they have been refusing to accept prisoners from Cleveland police officers. They refused to accept two 'heavily intoxicated' men on March 1. The officers then had to take both men to the hospital and drop them off, according to The Times Free Press.
The situation came to a head on March 28 when jailers turned away another prisoner, Jadarius Huggins, who had a cut on his arm. He had been arrested on a felony warrant, for burglary and violating probation.
Huggins's arrest was captured on body camera. Wanted on a felony warrant, he fled from the police and was caught after a foot pursuit.
Cleveland Police Officer Bradley Colbaugh's bodycam video shows the interaction between himself and the jailers. Officer Colbaugh tried several times to turn the prisoner over to the jail, who would not accept him.
A BCSO Lieutenant ordered the officer to leave the sallyport and refused to look at a copy of the Attorney General's opinion that he had, which stated that jails had to accept prisoners. She also ordered other jailers not to look at the opinion or to open the jail doors.
Officer Colbaugh called his supervisor, Sergeant Buddy Mitchell, who responded. The jailers still refused to look at the opinion or open the jail doors. He asked Lieutenant Edwards if she realized this was possibly criminal, and she replied that she was following departmental policies.
Officer Colbaugh had no choice at that time other than to turn Huggins loose.
You can see the video of the incident here:
Another prisoner, Thomas Creek Jr., was arrested by Cleveland officers on warrants for theft, shoplifting, and drug possession.theft, shoplifting, and drug possession.
In Creek's case, no medical issues were mentioned prior to his arrival at the jail. He then began complaining of cellulitis in both legs and his blood pressure was slightly elevated. Jailers refused to take him and he was transported to a hospital by ambulance. He then walked away from the hospital a free man because his medical condition gave him a get out of jail free card.
His body was later found dumped in a remote area of Polk County on March 28. He had been reported missing on March 23.
A suspect was arrested in his murder on March 30. His mother said that if her son had gone to jail that night that he might still be alive.
Cleveland Police Chief Mark Gibson said that a prisoner's medical bills aren't his problem.
Tennessee state law says that jailers must accept anyone who has been arrested, and that the jail is responsible for providing medical care, whether it's at the jail or at the hospital. The Chief said that his agency is not making up the rules, and once he delivers his prisoner to the jail, his obligation is complete.
He also said that if a prisoner has a true medical emergency, or is injured during an arrest, and it involves one of his officers, that he would call an ambulance.
Since these incidents, Chief Gibson and Sheriff Watson have met, along some of the Sheriff's deputies, and the County Attorney. In that meeting, there was discussion and review of the state law, the attorney general's opinion, and an opinion from the University of Tennessee's County Technical Advisory Service saying the jail must accept prisoners and provide medical care,
An agreement was made that each case would be decided on a case by case basis, and a process was agreed on where prisoners could be brought to the jail and booked in. An exception would be if a suspect was injured during an arrest by a police officer.
Imagine committing a felony and not having to go to jail if you have a medical condition, are really drunk, or injured. Unfortunately, Bradley County Sheriff's Officer isn't alone. Sheriff's offices across the country have been refusing bookings over politics about funding for years, but rarely do these cases involve wanted felons when the state law is clear that the county is responsible.