Sheriff again dodges FOX 8, defends her department to city council
“Sheriff, why are you singling out FOX 8? Why aren’t you talking to FOX 8, Sheriff?”
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson again dodged FOX 8′s cameras Wednesday afternoon, declining to speak to the news outlet following her presentation to the city council on the events that transpired at the jail over the weekend.
Two inmates died while in custody, one in a jailhouse fight Friday evening and another by suicide on Sunday. The events led Hutson to make the unprecedented call to pull Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO) deputies from duty securing the courthouse to assist with staffing the jail.
“I pulled every resource available to me to protect the lives in that jail,” Hutson told councilmembers. “Since taking office, we see every day how understaffed OJC is, how much more training is needed for our deputies, and how the building itself needs retrofitting to make it safe.”
Most of Wednesday’s presentation focused on staffing, with Hutson hesitant to provide numbers of deputies staffing the jail, citing security concerns. The Sheriff did admit that no deputies were present in the pod on Friday evening when the fight broke out.
Eventually, Hutson told the council that OPSO has 300 commissioned deputies, but her staff is doing an analysis to determine how many of those deputies are on administrative duty.
“We can’t get too deep into the investigation, it’s not finished yet. We promised to be transparent about the entire thing,” Hutson said when asked about whether staffing levels contributed to the fight.
“I understand that. I know you have an investigation to do,” said Council President Helena Moreno. “I think it’s also important to understand, if we’re talking about staff and potential lack of staff, that if there wasn’t staff in a pod where that’s resulted in a horrible fight and now death, I think that that’s something important that this council needs to understand and know about, particularly since the Sheriff needed to take emergency steps to try to figure out how to redeploy staff.”
Hutson said, on any given weekend, there are approximately 140 deputies guarding the jail.
“The inmates know how many deputies were actually working there,” said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “It seems like the Sheriff doesn’t have the basic answers about what happened in the jail. I think that part of that is she’s new to criminal justice, corrections, and I would like to think that she’ll do a little bit more homework next time she comes to present to the council, that she’s a bit more transparent.”
FOX 8 has submitted multiple requests to OPSO’s Chief Communications Officer Timothy Ray. As reported Tuesday, Ray, who is now in charge of responding to OPSO media requests, was the subject of a series of Fox 8 Lee Zurik investigations over his misuse of public dollars, leading to the suspension of his law license by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Ray was present at the meeting on Wednesday, following Hutson to her vehicle after the meeting.
“Sheriff, why are you singling out Fox 8?” asked FOX 8′s David Jones. “Why aren’t you talking to Fox 8 Sheriff?”
Ray did not respond to requests for an interview, or to questions about the motivation for freezing out FOX 8.
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