New training is underway for supervisors within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office after an internal investigation found simple mistakes led to an inmate’s escape from the Lower Buckeye Jail last May.
According to the recently released administrative investigation report, jail officials violated several jail policies by failing to adequately review and compare thumbprints, signatures, and mugshot photographs before they incorrectly released Rocky Marquez from custody.
Marquez, who had been an inmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail for approximately a year and a half, escaped by pretending to be a fellow inmate, Mikel Galaviz, who was scheduled to be released from jail.
According to the US Marshals, he was in jail for perjury, witness tampering, forgery, weapons misconduct, and DUI charges. He is also facing federal money laundering and drug charges.
His escape was among a total of three from the Maricopa County jails in 2012.
U.S. Marshals tracked Marquez to a Michigan home in January. However, he pulled the same identity-swap trick on jail officers there after he was arrested and booked. He walked out of that jail too.
Currently, he is on the run and considered armed and dangerous.
MUGSHOT MISTAKES AT THE LOWER BUCKEYE JAIL
According the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Investigation, officers failed to properly identify Marquez on at least three separate occasions before he mistakenly was allowed to walk out of jail.
One officer said, “this is the wrong guy,” as he was comparing Marquez’s face to a “grainy black and white” mugshot image of the inmate.
“This picture looks nothing like him,” he said, according to the investigative report.
The MCSO investigation found jail officers talked themselves out of their doubt. One officer said, “Fifty out of 100 inmates do not look like their (booking) picture.”
QUESTION AND ANSWER MISTAKES
Officers asked Marquez to answer extra specific, personal questions to help determine his identity before he was released from jail.
He was able to answer most of the ten questions correctly, including date of birth, age, and social security number. However, he was unable to relay a correct street address.
One officer explained Marquez’s mistake by blaming a clerical error. “It has been his experience that errors are sometimes made at the time of booking,” he said, according to the report.
A jail sergeant also admitted that he did not thoroughly check Marquez’s thumbprints as he was being discharged. The sergeant said, “the thumbprints were smudged and looked similar to (the sergeant) until the escape was identified and brought to his attention,” according to the report.
He said once he “re-compared the thumbprints under magnification, he realized that there was a discrepancy.”
A jail supervisor received a written reprimand for his involvement in the incident.
He told investigators “more training was needed for personnel that handle inmate releases.” He said he “never received any formal training,” and that all of his training was on-the-job.
A spokesman for MCSO could not verify whether any of the five other officers involved in Marquez’s release received any disciplinary action.
“Obviously there are some problems,” said MCSO Deputy Chief Brian Lee. “Every large organization has issues and problems.”
“We’re not perfect,” Lee said. “People make mistakes, but we’re very good at what we do,” he added, explaining that 130,000 inmates come through the jail system every year.
Lee said as a result of the May escape, all supervisors are now receiving formal training and learning how to utilize the jail’s current technology to verify an inmate’s thumbprints.
In questionable cases, jail officials have access to an electronic fingerprint system called AFIS.
Eventually, officers who are not supervisors may receive additional training as well, said Sgt. Brandon Jones, a spokesman for MCSO.
“I think in the case of Marquez, we had some human error, and we are always working to improve our technology,” Lee said.
“We’re pretty close to implementing state-of-the-art technology that we believe will take that human error aspect out of it,” said MCSO Deputy Chief Brian Lee.
The sheriff’s office is in the procurement stages for the new, biometric technology, Jones told ABC15.
He would not specify a date for the implementation.
The ABC15 Investigators discovered Marquez filed a federal civil rights complaint against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2005.
In the complaint, he wrote that he feared for his safety and was concerned he did not have access to water or restrooms during visitation with his family.
He also reported being sick for several weeks and blamed it on the jail cleanliness.
Records show the case was later dismissed.
JAIL ESCAPE HISTORY
According to records provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, two other escapes from MCSO jails happened in 2012, and 11 people attempted an escape.
In January 2012, someone escaped from Tent City by hiding in a laundry cart.
Adan Orduno escaped from the Lower Buckeye Jail in November by climbing through the ceiling of his jail cell in the jail’s psychiatric ward.
During that investigation, officers discovered at least one jail surveillance camera was not working.
Lee said that camera has since been fixed.
He also said the manner in which deputies guard inmates in the psychiatric ward has been improved.
Parts of the jail from where Orduno escaped were also repaired or reinforced to prevent future escapes.
“I feel like this is a very secure facility,” Lee said.
“I am very convinced that nobody will escape from this facility again, but I’m not willing to say it isn’t possible because anything is possible,” Lee said.
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