published Saturday, October 1st, 2011

3 Hamilton County corrections officers facing internal inquiry

Three Hamilton County corrections officers are suspended amid allegations that one carried on a months-long relationship with an inmate and another two "roughed up" an inmate during booking.

Jail Chief Ron Parson said an internal affairs investigation into the relationship between a female corrections officer and an inmate was launched Friday.

"We intercepted some phone call conversations between her and an inmate that were sexual in nature," Parson said. "We soon found out that this had been going on for months."

Investigators will review tapes of phone calls made from the inmate to the officer's cell phone that date back to May, Parson said.

The two male jailers were suspended after allegations surfaced that they had been too rough with an inmate charged with public intoxication as they took him to a holding cell last week.

"The entire incident is caught on tape," said Parson. "It shows what happened pretty clearly."

Parson said he could not elaborate about what the tape shows until the internal affairs investigation is complete. He doesn't understand why the officers behaved improperly while knowing they were being recorded.

"In the phone calls, a voice cuts in to warn that the calls are being recorded," he said. "I think it's possible they got so caught up that they just forgot they could get caught."

Parson said jail policy prohibits jailers from developing any kind of romantic relationship with inmates.

Sheriff Jim Hammond was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.

The suspensions bring the total number of corrections officers at the county jail on paid leave to four.

Corrections officer Jerry Melbert also is on leave after a Chattanooga Police Department officer arrested him in July after he was accused of molesting a woman on the dance floor of The Palms on Shallowford Road.

Melbert, who has charged with assault and sexual battery, is set to appear before Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Christine Mahn Sell on Wednesday.

Sheriff's office spokeswoman Janice Atkinson said the outcome of the court case would determine the status of his employment with the department.

Having four officers on suspension puts the jail "in a bind right now," Parson said. There are 113 corrections officers on staff, and the jail population has exceeded its capacity of 487 for years.

In August, Chief Magistrate Larry Ables sent a letter to Hammond, expressing concerns with what appeared to be an overworked and understaffed department, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.

"The current shortage of staff has led to an increase in overtime hours and overworked employees," Ables wrote. "I see corrections officers who work two shifts in a row and then come back the next day to do the same thing all over again."

Ables also noted that the state has suggested the jail's first-floor intake and booking area be staffed with nine to 11 officers per shift, but said the jail is only operating three to five officers per shift.

"Without time to unwind these officers are at risk of harming themselves or others," he wrote.

The next academy for corrections officers begins Oct. 24. Ten officers will be put through the program.

Parson said that, despite the current shortage, he has no qualms about losing staff to behavioral investigations.

"I don't care if we have to suspend the whole jail staff. We're not going to tolerate behavior like this," he said. "I don't care what an inmate's charges are. Jailers are supposed to show respect and do their job."

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LSL51 said...

And the list goes on. How many has to die, be hurt and harmed before they finally do something!!! Also seems they made this very same comment in Early May when an inmate was found hung in his cell. "The current shortage of staff has led to an increase in overtime hours and overworked employees," Ables wrote. "I see corrections officers who work two shifts in a row and then come back the next day to do the same thing all over again." That was ALMOST 5 months to the day. I bet if everyone came foward and told how they were mistreated as a human things might change, MIGHT. The jail is responsable for the well being and safety while in custody. That does not give them the right to abuse and neglect anyone. How many truely innocent people are in there or just in for something minor. They treat everyone the same from my understanding, like a rabid dog. Not caring that they are human who have families who love and care about them. I say clean up the mess before another persons SON, husband, Father or brother ends up dead from the wrongful actions in that hell hole!!

October 1, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

They need to fire them all and shut the whole joint down. Then they should start over from scratch. For years the profession has ignored the warning signs that have led to them attracting the perverts, sociopaths and other miscreants to law enforcement. Even when psychological exams and the examainers warned the individual wasn't fit for duty, they ignored the advice and hired them anyway. Now, all across the nation they're having to deal with rapists, murderers, drunks, drug addicts, child molesters and who knows what else has been allowed onboard. shameful!

October 1, 2011 at 7:38 p.m.
LSL51 said...

Correction,.the comment was made in August by Ables, the death was May 5th, one of 3 that was made public since last Oct. 2010. Here is also a comment from that article in August.

obviousman said... A translation of what Commissioner Greg Beck stated, would be: "Mr. Ables, by raising the issue in writing it makes it more difficult for us to continue to ignore this decades old problem. Please raise all future concerns verbally so it is easier for us for us to ingore the long standing safety issues at the jail. And, remember, we will be voting whether to keep you as a magistrate in a few months, so you better fall in line." August 17, 2011 at 7:33 p.m. Again, it's an obvious problem internally and to the public. NO MORE DELAYS! RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED AND THEY ARE GETTING way with it.

October 2, 2011 at 1:19 p.m.
brat1087 said...

When will the names of the officers be released???

November 3, 2011 at 10:04 a.m.
holdout said...

Well Macro and LSL there are openings. Hire in and work to fix the problem.

November 3, 2011 at 10:25 a.m.
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