TOPEKA, Kan. -- In the wake of the brutal killings of two Wyandotte County Sheriff’s deputies, departments across the metro are reviewing their transport protocols to prevent a similar tragedy.
Top brass at the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department said the two deputies shot and killed Friday during an inmate transfer were following proper procedure. Every department that deals with transporting inmates has different protocols in place, and the Shawnee County Department of Corrections invited FOX4 to take a peek at how they do it.
Maj. Timothry Phelps, the deputy director of the Shawnee County corrections department, said the inmate transport is the most dangerous part of the process.
Alhtough he couldn't tell FOX4 everything about the agency’s transport protocol due to officer safety, he took us through the basics.
Before leaving the jail facility, inmates are brought into a small room and are shackled in four-point restraints.
“So this severely restricts their ability to move very fast or very far,” Phelps said as he demonstrated the restraints.
Corrections specialists are not armed in the security room. Once the inmate is locked in the shackles, they're taken into the secured indoor sally port. The classification of the inmate determines how they proceed from there.
“If they are high-risk security inmate, then they would be brought out, no weapons on anybody. They would be placed safely into the transport vehicle, and then once they are in there, one of the officers in the transport would put on a firearm.” Phelps said. “The officer that is gunned up never has interaction with the inmate. The one that is not armed does all of the physical interaction with the inmate.”
This protocol in Shawnee County was put in place after a close call in the 90s. An inmate being held on a capital murder charge faked a heart attack. At the hospital, the inmate attacked the corrections officer and came close to getting his gun.
"That is part of the reason we never have the officer with the weapon engage with the inmate,” Phelps said.
In light of the tragedy in Wyandotte County, Phelps and his team will be reviewing transport protocol to see if there is something they can do to tighten up security even more.
“What can we learn from that tragedy? Because as horrible as it is, it would be even worse if we didn’t learn something from it,” Phelps said. “We first have to get over the shock and the trauma of what happened to our friends down the road and make sure we are available to help them because they are our brothers.”
KCK police and the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department are still investigating what happened Friday. The results of that investigation will help others jurisdictions determine how they might update their procedures.