The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 4, 2012

County jail options being considered

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Further training and the creation of a new position are a couple options being considered by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, following the September termination of five members of the jail’s staff.

Undersheriff Jerry Niles has said new staff has been hired and is undergoing training. Changes to training for jailers at Garfield County Detention Facility are being considered.

A September search of the county jail led to felony charges being filed against three female jailers. Two supervisors were terminated for “failure to supervise.”

The women are accused of having physical contact with inmates, as well as bringing contraband, such as cell phones, tobacco and drugs, into the facility.

Kevina Guadalupe Abercrombie, 29; Krystal Dawn Davidson, 32; and Staci Nicole Guffey, 19; were charged Oct. 12 with felonies.

Davidson faces one count of second-degree rape, or in the alternative a count of sexual battery, and two counts of bringing contraband into a jail (cell phones and tobacco), and Guffey and Abercrombie were charged with a count each of sexual battery and two counts of bringing contraband into a jail.

Davidson and Abercrombie both are  free on $15,000 bond. Guffey is free on $5,000 bond. All three are due back in court Nov. 26 for bond appearances.

Attempts to reach Abercrombie and Davidson for comment on this story were unsuccessful. Guffey had no comment.

At the time of the charges, Niles said the department holds its jailers to a higher standard and expects them to follow the law.

“We do hold our staff, and our staff does hold themselves, to higher standards,” he said. “We don’t want the allegations against these three individuals to reflect upon the detention staff as a whole, because they are professional and hard working.”

Two supervisors at the jail also were terminated for “failure to supervise” in relation to the September search of the jail.

Niles said the two male supervisors were not charged because their actions were not criminal.

“It did not rise to a criminal level,” Niles said “Part of that failure to supervise dealt with the ethics and statement of ‘That’s not my problem.’

“The expectation of the public is you supervise,” he said. “To assume that post you need to understand the duties and responsibilities of it.”

Niles said one of the biggest misconceptions he believes the public has about the detention facility is the level of staffing.

“They probably don’t understand how minimum staffed we are,” he said. “If someone calls in sick there’s no overtime. It’s salary. We try to be very, very frugal with the taxpayers’ money and be cost-effective.”

He said there are five jailers, including a supervisor, assigned to each shift at the jail. Shifts are 12 hours, beginning and ending at 6. The average salary for a beginning jailer is about $11.90 an hour.

“These five individuals are responsible for booking in, fingerprinting, dressing out (inmates), processing in and out,” Niles said. “They’re moving people to courts, moving people to visiting, moving them to medical and dispensing medication, supervising the passing out of meals and supervise the cleaning of the facility.

“It’s a lot of responsibility.”

As of Wednesday morning, Garfield County Detention Facility held 221 inmates, leaving each member of a shift to watch about 44 inmates at any time.

Niles said the department will increase the hours of training it gives jailers. The state mandates a total of 24 hours of training and the department currently provides 40 hours to jailers. Niles said  the amount of training will double.

“We were providing 40 hours and we’re now moving toward 80 hours because of the recent poor decision-making of five individuals,” Niles said.

Additional topics to be covered include advanced communication skills, methods of dealing with stressful situations and legal information on state statutes.

“We going more in-depth into custody and control, searches, searches for contraband and searches of individuals,” Niles said. “We’re addressing the issues of ethics and accountability.

“The Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association is working on developing a 40-hour curriculum, and hopefully we can get that passed, to get that mandated.”

Limited resources make training an issue for many smaller counties.

Niles said most counties cannot afford to be without jailers for the time it takes for training, let alone afford the training.

“We’re not alone in our training issues,” he said. “Most jails that have minimum staffing, they can’t afford to send jailers to training.”

The department’s long-rage goal, Niles said, was to implement advanced training for jailers that are past the probationary period.

“We’re wanting to complement the new 80-hour program and work toward developing advanced training for those who’ve gone through probationary steps,” he said. “New hires go to a two-week school, complete certain tasks during their probationary period and (do) additional in-service training during that period.”

Another option that could be implemented is the idea of the department’s deputies.

“One of our deputies has proposed a part-time chief of security position,” Niles said. “We are reviewing and may take some action on it in the next two weeks.

“Basically, this position will be to review shifts, assisting with training and quality control.”