The Fairland Police Department lost a police vehicle from its fleet last week when the unit hydroplaned and skidded into a concrete barrier on I-44. The officer was not injured, but the 2-month-old car was totaled.
A similar incident occurred with a Miami police officer when the front tire of the unit he was driving had a blow-out on the interstate.
The costly accidents occurred as officers were carrying out emergency detention orders, commonly known as EDOs.
The orders are issued by the court to transport a mental health patient to and from medical and jail facilities and is proving to be time-consuming and costly to law enforcement agencies.
“What happens, typically, is we go to Claremore to Grand Lake Mental Health and pick up a client and bring them back up here to visit with their attorney,” Miami Police Chief Gary Anderson said. “Once a determination is made, we generally take them to Wagoner.”
Sheriff's offices and police departments throughout the area have absorbed the burden of EDO's for several years, according to law enforcement officials.
The financial inconvenience of transporting mental health patients is overwhelming to many of the department's budgets, according to Anderson.
“We don't receive additional funding for transporting these people,” Anderson said. “And we have one or two less officers on patrol for Miami citizens when we have an EDO.”
For several months, Anderson, along with other officials, have asked for the assistance of legislators to change the policy on EDO's and provide additional funding for the department's who carry out the order.
Their requests have not gone unheard.
Within the next few days, a recently renovated procedure will take affect which Anderson said will greatly reduce the expense of the transports.
A video conferencing program has been set up in the former child support office at the Ottawa County Courthouse.
From Grand Lake Mental Health in Claremore, patients will be able to hold teleconference meetings with their local attorney's. Based on the conference, a determination will be made as to where the patient will go next.
“All of the paperwork will be handled through a fax machine,” Anderson said. “Instead of driving to Claremore and picking up the patient to bring them here so they can see their attorney, then taking them to Wagoner, we can drive to Claremore pick up the patient and take them straight to Wagoner or wherever they need to go. It cuts down on a lot of the driving and time.”
According to Anderson, law enforcement offices are also making a plea to legislators for personnel wages, gas, toll and meal expenses incurred through EDOs.