The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of three detention officers disciplined after an inmate’s Jan. 26 escape, saying officials never intended to withhold the information from the public.
Sheriff’s Maj. Ricky Driggers identified the fired officer as Sgt. Patricia Collins, a supervisor on the shift that allowed a man facing a domestic violence charge to escape from the county jail. Two other detention officers — Pfc. Tyler McWethy and Sgt. Rosemary Sanders — were suspended for a week without pay for their roles in the incident, he said.
Driggers said he is waiting for legal advice on whether the county can release the name of the fourth disciplined officer, who was demoted in rank. The officer has filed a grievance over the demotion, Driggers said, and the sheriff’s office needs to clarify the legality of releasing his name while that personnel action is pending.
The sheriff’s office released the officers’ names less than 24 hours after County Attorney Nicole Ewing told The Post and Courier it had to submit a written request for the information. The Post and Courier submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act request late Wednesday seeking the names and investigative reports related to the escape.
Driggers said the sheriff’s office has every intention of complying with the FOIA and would have released the information sooner if the pending grievance had not created some legal questions for the department.
Driggers said he did not have immediate access to the officers’ personnel files and could not say how long each had worked at the jail. He said Collins, the fired officer, had a prior discipline issue as well, but he had no details on that incident.
An internal investigation was launched after the escape of James A. Sanders, 39, of Cypress Campground Road in Ridgeville. Sanders is not related to Rosemary Sanders, the disciplined officer.
The probe revealed that the employees in question failed to follow procedures at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center in Moncks Corner, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.
Sanders had been sentenced Jan. 26 to time served for violating a protective order and was being prepared for release when he escaped through an employee exit in the back of the detention center. Correctional officers did not know he still faced a charge of criminal domestic violence, but would have realized it before Sanders was released, Driggers has said.
Sanders remains at large. The U.S. Marshals Service is now assisting the sheriff’s office in the hunt for the fugitive, Driggers said.
In the wake of the escape, procedures for releasing prisoners have been changed. Inmates are now released at the front part of the jail, and the pre-release room is off-limits to them, Driggers has said.