Officers' conduct under investigation

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Three Barry County Sheriff's deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave and three Cassville Police officers have resigned following allegations they mistreated a female at the Barry County Jail on the night of July 23.

Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly said the incident did not involve sexual misconduct. Instead, the officers are accused of failing to follow proper policy and procedure.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol has been asked to conduct an outside investigation into the incident. Epperly said he sent a letter to the Patrol on Monday requesting an investigation be conducted by the agency.

"I think I know where we're at, but I want an outside investigation done anyway," said Epperly.

When asked about the incident, Epperly said he did not believe the officers intended to hurt the victim in anyway. He did say a dry-fire Taser was used to try to subdue the woman, who was described by the sheriff as combative and suicidal. The 40-year-old victim was also handcuffed and shackled.

The names of the officers involved in the incident are not being released pending the outcome of the investigation. Epperly could not comment on whether or not the officers would be fired over the incident. He did say he did not expect any charges to be filed against the officers.

"We'll know more after the outside investigation is complete," Epperly said.

Cassville City Admini-strator Mike Hayslip released a statement on Monday that indicated the three city patrol officers had tendered their resignations in response to the jail incident.

"As this is an internal personnel matter, the City of Cassville will not be naming any officer related to the alleged incident now or in the future," said Hayslip.

"After significant review of the facts surrounding the alleged incident, the City of Cassville will not be engaging in an external investigation of the alleged incident unless it is later deemed prudent and at the request of the appropriate agencies," added Hayslip.

Preliminary information released by the Sheriff's Department revealed that a female approached an off-duty officer at his residence in Butterfield and told him she was suicidal. The officer called the Sheriff's Office and a dispatcher called for an ambulance to transport the woman to St. John's Hospital-Cassville.

At the hospital, the woman received medical attention but left before treatment could be completed. County dispatch then alerted county and city officers that the woman had left the hospital.

The victim was later picked up by officers, and after threatening to harm herself, was taken to the Barry County Jail where she was restrained.

"She did become very, very combative, but the deputies and officers did not follow proper policy and procedures established by the Barry County Sheriff's Office," said Epperly.

The female was eventually transported to the Hawthorn Center in Joplin for a mental evaluation and possible treatment. According to Epperly, the woman did not suffer any physical injuries as a result of the incident.

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