Two officers resign, one demoted after jail escape
After looking into the security problems which allowed a prisoner to escape Jan. 18, Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill says two jail officers who were on duty have resigned, and the jail administrator has been demoted.
On Jan. 18, Dennis Paul Elliott, 52, of Spartanburg was being held in Polk County when he walked out of the jail with a handgun he stole from a jail lockbox. Elliott was apprehended in Spartanburg County the next day after carjacking a Polk County woman and wrecking the vehicle in Boiling Springs, S.C. He is now being held at the Spartanburg County, S.C. Detention Center.
Sheriff Hill held a press conference yesterday to describe his personal investigation into the incident, and the changes being made. Hill says two jail officers are no longer with the sheriffs office. Hill did not name those employees but the officers were John Cooley, Jr. and David McCann, according to county records. Hill also said he plans to demote jail administrator Tim Spencer and find a replacement.
Tonja Holcombe has been hired full-time to replace a jail officer, according to the Polk County Finance Office.
Hill also says after investigating the escape he is making some changes in policies and removing the lock box where Elliott stole a handgun. Hill says Elliott made entry into the lock box with an unknown utensil prior to his escape. Hill also says his new policy is that officers secure their weapons in the trunk of their vehicle prior to entering the sheriffs office jail. He also says he is looking into a new locking system for jail doors, where if an inmate escapes officer custody, he will be contained inside the building.
Hill says on the Monday night of Elliotts escape, Elliott as a trustee, was cleaning an area of the facility. Hill says there was a lot of “non-observation” going on and supervision that wasnt occurring according to Hills policies. Hill says due to this, Elliott was given opportunities to steal the gun and escape.
“Number one, he (Elliott) shouldnt have been a trustee in the first place. Period,” Hill said. “Number two, he should have been supervised more closely.”
Another new policy is that Hill himself will determine which inmates are deemed as trustees and allowed to help out in certain areas of the facility.
Elliott was wanted on a list of warrants, mostly property crimes. He will face charges in Spartanburg County before returning to Polk County to face his escape and carjacking charge, among others.