In the wake of the tragic killing of a sheriff’s deputy during an escape attempt by an inmate, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in Indianapolis has announced significant changes to its prisoner transport policy.
The incident occurred on July 10 when Deputy John Durm was transporting murder suspect Orlando Mitchell alone after a hospital visit.
According to a police affidavit, Mitchell, 34, used the chain of his handcuffs to choke Deputy Durm, subsequently breaking his neck during the struggle and resulting in his tragic death.
Mitchell then took the deputy’s car keys and drove away, eventually losing control of the jail van and crashing into a telephone pole.
Mitchell has since been charged with murder, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.
The tragic incident has led sheriff’s officials to implement several policy changes to prevent any recurrences.
Sheriff Kerry Forestal himself acknowledged that staffing shortages played a role in the incident.
“Staffing has probably got too complacent … because we’re so short-staffed, people will make decisions that aren’t in the best interest.”
Currently, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office is 150 deputies short of full staffing.
As part of the policy changes announced, all off-site medical transports will now require two deputies.
Sheriff Forestal noted that additional overtime is being used to accommodate the increased staffing required for off-site medical transports, and they are re-evaluating if some of these transports can be completed on-site.
Additionally, murder suspects will now be required to wear red clothing as a reminder of their potential danger.
These policy changes went into effect on the same day as Deputy Durm’s tragic killing but were officially announced on August 30.
Furthermore, two deputies have been fired, and two have been demoted following a review of the circumstances surrounding Deputy Durm’s death.
While Sheriff Forestal admitted policy failures, he firmly emphasized that the ultimate responsibility for Deputy Durm’s death lies with the accused killer, Orlando Mitchell.
“It wasn’t understaffing that killed John Durm. It wasn’t faulty equipment. It was Orlando Mitchell.”
The sheriff’s office is also addressing other aspects of safety and protocol. All off-site medical services will now require authorization from a jail physician, and vans entering the sally port will need to identify the number of prisoners on board, with processing meeting the driver upon arrival.
Additionally, a heart defibrillator has been placed in the sally port of the jail, and all deputies are undergoing retraining on the use of belly chains.
Mitchell’s next court appearance is scheduled for September 8.
Deputy Durm had served the Marion County Sheriff’s Department for nearly 40 years. He leaves behind a wife, four children, parents and numerous other family members.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett expressed his condolences after the slaying.
“Today, our city grieves the tragic loss of Marion County Deputy John Durm. We will be forever grateful for his service to the Indianapolis community.”
Governor Eric Holcomb also extended his sympathies, acknowledging Durm’s sacrifice.