Sheriff creating policy to address inmates with mental health issues

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - UPDATE: Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Yates said the sign has been taken down.

He explained the reason the sign was put up was because he and his chief deputy were out of town and did not have a policy in place.

They are now back and Yates said they can deal with any issues that may arise.

Yates said he is currently working on a new policy that will address this issue.

While the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office reviews a new policy to deal with inmates with mental health issues, one Region 8 police department questions the timing.

According to Chief Deputy Tony Waldrupe, the sheriff's office has taken the brunt of the cost when a police officer within the county arrests a person who needs a mental health screening.

Waldrupe told Region 8 News that every time an officer arrests a person, then the county has to pay for mental health screenings that may take place.

To prevent the problem, the county placed a sign on the door at the jail's sally port door, where inmates are brought into the jail.

The sign said the door must be locked at all times for security reasons, and Walnut Ridge police officers are not allowed to bring in the inmates unless they receive approval from the county.

Walnut Ridge Police Chief Chris Kirksey added that he worries about the safety of his officers and the people they take into custody. He said recently a Walnut Ridge officer brought in a prisoner and had to wait until a supervisor could be contacted.

Kirksey said if he cannot take his officers to the jail in Lawrence County, then he will take them to a different county. "There is no feud going on here," Waldrupe said of the relationship with the Walnut Ridge Police Department.

Waldrupe said the sign was placed on the sally port door until the sheriff's office could determine an official policy regarding the cost of inmate care and mental health.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

Watch Region 8 News On Demand: On your Desktop | On your Mobile device

Region 8 News App - Install or update on your: iPhone | Android