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Detectives still denied access to jail interviews

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Five days after the Clayton County sheriff barred county police from entering the jail and interviewing suspects, detectives are still waiting to get in.

Though promised the lock-out would end on Monday morning, detectives were turned away again Monday evening and told they couldn't interview suspects after 6 p.m., but should come back during business hours.

"We tried to get in to interview a suspected child molester," said Jeff Turner, chief of the Clayton County Police Department. "We were denied access. We tried to get in to interview burglary suspects, and put together a photographic line up, and were denied access."

Sheriff Victor Hill wrote a memo last Wednesday, saying the police officers would not be allowed into the county jail because the department had not turned over burglary statistics. Hill apparently intends to start a burglary-suppression unit, and asked for statistics on burglary from the police department.

When police tried to enter the jail on Thursday, they were kept out.

Turner said the statistics on burglaries are available to the sheriff's department, through the county's computer system, so he doesn't know why the sheriff, who was once a detective, doesn't know how to access the information.

Hill and his public information officer did not return calls seeking comment.

Saying the citizens of Clayton County were being held hostage, Turner threatened to get the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice Involved, Friday. Hill told television reporters the police chief was just being uncooperative.

On Monday morning, though, both the sheriff and the police chief made concessions. Hill sent out a memo reversing the previous order and agreeing to allow county police into the jail, as long as they would fill out some paper work. Turner printed out 2,000 pages of data from the last six months of burglary reports, and turned it over to sheriff's deputies.

Even so, county police detectives were turned away from the jail again on Monday night. Arriving a little after 6 p.m., to take photographs for a line-up of burglary suspects, the investigators were told that couldn't be done after 6.

"Crime doesn't stop after 6 o'clock," Turner said. "We work 24/7. Crime happens 24/7 ... This shuts us down. This takes away from us our ability to get jail-house confessions from suspects."

Turner said the detectives would try to get into the jail again on Tuesday, during business hours, but he wasn't sure the conflict was over. The sheriff's Monday memo said he will now require all police officers entering the jail to file a form stating who they want to see and a synopsis of the investigation.

Given the continuing conflicts between the two county law enforcement agencies, Turner said he didn't know why the sheriff was asking for information about ongoing investigations, or what he intends to do with it.