‘Potentially criminal’ use of force at jail under investigation


Use of force by a Clark County Jail corrections officer while restraining an inmate for a cell search in August is under a criminal investigation, the county announced on March 10.

According to a news release, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident where a handcuffed inmate was restrained as his cell was searched and he received food. The inmate was housed in the jail’s maximum security unit during the Aug. 13 incident due to a history of violence, including past assaults on corrections deputies.

The release stated corrections deputy Robert Hanks used force on the inmate that was “potentially criminal.” Hanks and other deputies reportedly used force removing the inmate’s handcuffs, which a review of video by a jail commander deemed “possibly excessive.”

The release noted that reviews of potential use of force situations typically involve a chain of command where a sergeant reviews video of an incident before a commander. In the incident in question, the sergeant had not reviewed the video, and was subsequently disciplined.

The release did not specify the nature of the excessive force observed. When Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins learned of the incident, Hanks was placed on administrative leave. He, alongside the other involved deputies, were notified of criminal and internal investigations, the release stated. Clark County Sheriff’s Office has been awaiting the completion of Pierce County’s criminal investigation before completing its own internal probe.

“Sheriff Atkins and Jail command staff take the use of excessive force very seriously and it will not be tolerated,” the release stated.   

“Upon being notified of this incident, I viewed the video and was very troubled by what I observed,” Atkins stated in the release. “I know the importance of not jumping to conclusions or prejudging an incident based upon video alone. I did, however, order that the matter be immediately referred to an outside agency for a criminal investigation.”

Atkins said he received a copy of the criminal investigation the day of his office’s release after it was delivered to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office. The sheriff’s office will continue its internal investigation while the prosecutor’s office looks into potential criminal charges.

“I am committed to transparency of how my office handles the internal affairs investigation, and what if any disciplinary action that may follow — once that investigation is completed,” Atkins said.


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