Sheriff adding use of Tasers, more correctional officers at Kane County jail

The video shows a man in an orange inmate jumpsuit standing while slightly swaying side to side. A mesh laundry bag covers his head and face. A white towel encircles his neck as he glares at the officers through the window of his Kane County jail cell. The officers shout commands at him and get no response.

Until recently, this scene would mean the potential for some form of hand-to-hand encounter, creating risk for both the inmate and the officers. Now, there is a new policy.

"We ultimately opened the door and deployed a Taser," Sheriff Ron Hain told the county board Thursday. "(The inmate) went to the ground with no further incident and no injury to the officers."

Hain's comments and the video announced the new Taser policy at the jail to the county board Thursday. The video showed one of two Taser deployments since April.

The use of Tasers is common in state and local prisons and jails, but it comes with some risk. A Reuters investigation in 2017 identified 104 deaths involving the use of Tasers at jails or prisons since the year 2000. The use of a Taser was a contributing factor in the majority of those deaths, according to the autopsy findings in the Reuters report.

Hain has made jail safety enhancements a priority since taking office late last year. He even spent a night in the jail as an inmate.

In addition to the use of Tasers, Hain said he will increase the number of correctional officers. There are 10 officers in the academy now. They will be joined by five people already serving in different roles.

"By the end of September, we will be up to full staffing for the first time since I can remember," Hain said.

The need for additional officers is shown by the 1,352 hours of overtime the current staff has already accumulated this year, Hain said. The afternoon shift alone racked up 608 hours of overtime so far, according to stats shared by Hain.

Last year, former Sheriff Don Kramer shared numbers showing it was common practice for a single correctional officer to supervise up to 128 inmates at a time. Such low staffing contributed to the Delnor Hospital hostage situation in 2017 that resulted in a nurse being beaten and raped, Kramer said at the time.

Also this week, the county board approved a new contract with the court security sergeants union. The deal gives the sergeants a 2% raise this year and each of the next three years. They will also receive an annual lump-sum payment of $1,200 in each year of the deal. The board shifted $32,000 into the budget for the sheriff's office to cover the additional expenses for this year.

Hain also announced Thursday the renewal of agreements with Kaneland and Burlington high schools to have full-time school resource officers at each building. The renewed agreement features a 50/50 cost-sharing of the officers' salaries between the sheriff's office and the school districts. The old agreement with Kramer forced the school districts to pick up the entire cost of the salaries.

"That was an unpopular decision, because that money came out of their education funds and was taking money off the children's school desks," Hain said.

There will also be officers assisting with traffic flow around the schools.

"We've had seven accidents at Kaneland at Keslinger and Dauberman Roads in recent years. So it's very important that we have that police presence," Hain said.

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