A couple of incidents within the past year have prompted Crothersville’s police chief to request cages for the department’s vehicles.
The town’s police vehicles are not equipped with cages, and officers are trained that it’s safer for them to put suspects in the front seat if the car doesn’t have a cage.
Recently, while Police Chief Matt Browning was in front of a police car talking to someone, a handcuffed woman in the front passenger seat kicked the windshield three times.
The concern initially started after an incident in December 2017 when a 20-year-old Madison man escaped from police by stealing a Crothersville squad car.
While an officer was investigating a report of a stolen Dodge Charger, Riley James Nasby was arrested and put into the front seat of the police car.
As the officer was searching the Charger and other officers were interviewing a female passenger, Nasby was able to gain control of the police car, drive through a yard and onto State Road 256.
After a pursuit of about a mile and a half, Nasby drove into a field near a wooded area and exited the cruiser on foot. During the pursuit, dispatchers were able to keep track of the cruiser through its GPS system. There was no damage to the police car.
Other police and fire departments helped in the search for Nasby, and he was on the run for more than 12 hours until being recaptured and taken into custody. He still had his handcuffs on.
“That’s when it really kicked in that we need to look to do something. Luckily, he only made it a couple miles, but there’s still the fact that he was able to take the car,” Browning said.
“As soon as you put the handcuffs on, they know you just ended their freedom, so they are going to do whatever they can to try to get out of the situation,” he said.
Some people who get arrested are quiet while in the police vehicle, but Browning said there have been instances like the two mentioned and other times when people have kicked laptops in the police cars.
“You don’t know what they are capable of,” he said. “If they get their cuffs in front of them and you don’t see it, they can grab the wheel, they can do whatever they want. If you have them cuffed and you’re out front doing something, it’s a pretty easy target. They can see you, but you can’t really see them.”
During a recent meeting, Browning talked to the Crothersville Town Council about a quote he received to install a cage kit.
For door covers, a center divider and a rear divider, the cost would be $3,200 per vehicle.
Browning said his focus is on the four full-time officers’ vehicles, which are Ford Interceptors. The rear divider is needed because a suspect could climb over the back seat and try to get out of the vehicle.
“Even if we can just start off with one car, get one car set up, then do another one six months down the road, something like that,” he said. “That way, if something does get bad enough, we can call that one guy and and say, ‘Hey, can you bring your car so we can transport this guy. He’s giving us a hard time.’”
The reserve officers use Ford Crown Victoria P71s, so the kits would need everything except for a rear divider.
“No matter which way you look at it, it’s going to be expensive,” Browning told the council.
With the recent incident involving the woman kicking the windshield, Browning had to call the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department to bring its transport van to take her to the jail in Brownstown.
“I’ve never liked the idea of a prisoner being beside the officer,” council President Danieta Foster said.
“It’s the safest way you can do it,” Browning responded.
“Until one of them slips their cuffs and hits you in the head,” Foster said.
Browning then said when a handcuffed suspect is in the back seat, it’s more of a worry because they could get their hands free and put them over an officer’s head or around their neck.
That’s why the department’s standard operating procedures requires officers to transport suspects in the front seat.
“People are sneaky,” Browning said. “Especially at nighttime, it doesn’t take anything to just eventually slide around and move their hands up (to get out of the handcuffs), and then they can just reach over to us.”
Browning hopes funding can be worked out for the cages to protect those who serve the town.
“Everybody goes home at the end of the night. That’s the way I look at it. You end your shift, you will go home,” he said. “Anything we can do to make it safer is what we’re going to do.”