Sheriff Hill’s open door policy

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, October 28, 2010

To the Editor:
There are glowing campaign ads for Sheriff Hill which state in part, “He has the experience and knowledge needed and he has the respect of the community and the deputies.” North Carolina General Statutes charge our sheriff in addition to his criminal justice responsibilities to perform three duties:
1) Act as bailiff and marshal for the courts of the state; 2) Administer and execute criminal and civil justice; and 3) Act as the ex officio detention officer. Let’s take a look at how Sheriff Hill’s 20 years of experience and knowledge in law enforcement are allowing him to serve and protect the citizens of Polk County.
November 2008 Donald Hill became sheriff of Polk County.
Four months later in March 2009 Stephen Taylor escaped from the Polk County Courthouse. Sheriff Hill had knowledge of Taylor’s history of evading law enforcement yet he did nothing to coordinate with the courts to ensure Taylor remained restrained. In his state mandated responsibility as bailiff and marshal for the court it was Sheriff Hill’s responsibility to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the court and the citizens of Polk County. He failed to do either.
Six months later, according to jail records on September 26, 2009, a female (who I will not name) escaped from the Polk County Jail. This escape was not publicized. This female just walked out of the jail without the jailers realizing she was gone.
One month later in October 2009 Sheriff Hill and other members of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office were advised that inmate Dennis Elliott was planning to escape from the jail. Sheriff Hill stood guard over inmates while members of his staff tested the escape plan. Instead of transferring Elliott to a more secure facility to ensure the safety of sheriff’s office employees and the citizens of Polk County Elliott was locked down in his cell and things went back to normal at the jail.
Two months later in mid December 2009 Dennis Elliott was given inmate trusty status. Even though Sheriff Hill was aware of Elliott’s October escape plans he failed to check Elliott’s criminal history, which includes an escape, and he failed to “just say no” to Elliott becoming a trusty.
One month later on January 18, 2010 Dennis Elliott escaped from the Polk County Jail, taking with him a sheriff’s office .357 Glock automatic handgun which was used to car jack me. Elliott then led law enforcement on a high speed chase which ended in Spartanburg County when Elliott crashed into a vehicle carrying a mother and her four children. Sheriff Hill said he was sorry for any inconvenience this caused. Let’s put this into proper perspective by saying it was only by the grace of God that no one was killed during this escape.
Five months later in June 2010 at 4 a.m. two trusty inmates go outside to empty the trash. One jailer is with the inmates. Video shows the inmates walking back toward the jail with no jailer in sight for more than a minute. It took Dennis Elliott much less time than this to steal one of Sheriff Hill’s weapons.
Less than a month later after I had been assured that things had been tightened up at the jail on 30 July 2010, a male (who I will not name) was erroneously released from the jail when he still had an unsatisfied bond of $4,000.
It is time for a change in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
– Annette Sepulveda

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