Citizen’s complaint prompts TRIAD program review

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 28, 2006

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department and Board of Supervisorsare asking participants of TRIAD’s Are You OK? program to notifylaw enforcement agencies when they will not be at home.

“We do ask if people are going out of town or to the doctor tocall us or leave a note on the door if they are not going to behome when we investigate a missed call,” said Sheriff WileyCalcote.

The officials’ request was prompted by a citizen’s recentcomplaint, the sheriff said.

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Participants in the Are You OK? program, mostly the sick, infirmor aged, invite law enforcement agencies to use an automatedtelephone calling service to call them once a day to check on theirwell-being. When calls are not answered, an officer is dispatchedto check on the participant.

While doing so recently, however, Deputy Dwayne Burns respondedto a home, knocked on the door and received no response. Afterseveral attempts and circling the house, he broke a window to gainentry and found no one home, Calcote said.

The citizen, who asked not to be identified, complained abouthaving to replace the window. She said although the intent wasclearly one of concern, the incident was still destruction ofprivate property.

“I don’t think that was necessary,” the citizen said. “I can’tbelieve, with all the people that are in this program, that theproper response when no one answers is to break in. I’m not reallycriticizing, but I think it was a poor decision.”

The citizen said she was at a medical facility with her husbandthe day of the incident.

In defending his actions, Burns said no neighbors were home andthere was no answer at contact telephone numbers provided on theprogram’s application form to check with. Therefore, he said, hehad to suspect the worst.

“If I got the call again today, I would do it again,” Burnssaid.

Calcote supported his deputy’s decision.

“If someone had been laying there on the floor dying, unable toanswer the door, then we would be liable if we didn’t go in,” thesheriff said.

The sheriff’s office has aided others in similar situations inthe past, Calcote said.

“I understand (the citizen’s) concern, but it’s so simple tojust leave a note on the door when you know you’re signed into theprogram and will not be there to answer the call,” the sheriffsaid.

The call is placed at the same time each day, Calcote said.

The citizen suggested the sheriff’s office invest in a lockpicking or lock-breaking kit instead of breaking windows.

“It’s not as radical as taking a window out,” she said. “I wouldrather replace a lock than to be wide open to the public and theweather.”

Calcote said he would look into the cost and legalities of thoseitems.

District Four Supervisor Doug Moak said he appreciated thecitizen bringing the complaint before the board at Monday’smeeting.

“I think you alerted us to something we need to look into,” hesaid. “It’s a good program, but maybe it should be tweaked a littlebit.”

The board unanimously approved a motion to reimburse the citizenfor the cost of the window.