Probe finds 3 Campbell cops 'negligent' in inmate’s self-cutting

By jeanne starmack


An internal-affairs investigator has decided three officers were “derelict and negligent in their duties” after a prisoner was able to cut herself with a razor last month.

Investigator Kenneth Kotouch said Sgt. David Taybus, Officer Kevin Sferra and auxiliary Officer George Stamos failed to make sure the 52-year-old woman was guarded and secured while in custody.

Sferra said Tuesday he did not wish to comment.

Taybus and Stamos could not be reached.

The woman cut herself with a disposable razor she got out of a cabinet in a holding room at the department Sept. 4.

The Campbell Municipal Court had ordered her to be arrested that morning on a probation violation.

A video shows the woman in the room with all three officers in the beginning, then eventually she is left alone. There is a set of handcuffs in the room that attach to the wall next to her chair, but they are never used. At one point, she takes something from the cabinet, which was full of toiletries and towels for prisoners, and puts it in her pocket. The object was the razor.

She also is seen opening the door to the holding room, standing in the doorway and looking up and down the hall. At one point, she leaves the room and can be seen pacing past the open door.

After going back into the room, she slashes furiously at her wrist with the razor, eventually drawing blood. She opens the door again and asks police Chief Gus Sarigianopoulos, who is on his way out to the garage, for help. He tells Stamos, the dispatcher, to call an ambulance. She was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center for treatment.

Kotouch determined she had been left alone for an hour and two minutes while her paperwork was being processed. She was to be transported to the Mahoning County jail, he said, because Campbell doesn’t keep female prisoners at its jail.

According to Kotouch’s report, Stamos was the officer who brought the woman from the courtroom upstairs in the city building to the police department in the basement around 11:30 a.m. She was upset with him, and Sferra told him to go back to the courtroom while he talked to her. Sferra and Taybus, who know the woman, were both in the room and tried to calm her down. Sferra had removed Stamos’ handcuffs from her and had given them back to him.

Taybus left the room when he was asked to help with another prisoner who had passed out in the elevator at the city building. He went to assist, then eventually transported that prisoner to the county jail.

At 12:32 p.m., he was on his way back to Campbell when he was notified about the woman cutting her wrist.

Stamos had also gone to help at the elevator, then he went back to the courtroom to take more prisoners to the jail.

He went to the dispatch room and was there for 25 minutes until Sarigianopoulos told him to call the ambulance.

Sferra’s statement to Kotouch indicates he was able to calm the woman down and she “appeared not to be a threat to herself and others.”

He said that Stamos, as dispatcher, was responsible for making sure prisoners were secure.

Stamos maintained that after Sferra told him to leave, Sferra was responsible for the prisoner.

Kotouch concluded the prisoner should have been handcuffed to the wall in the holding room. She should have been monitored either physically or through surveillance monitors, and she shouldn’t have had access to an item she could use to hurt herself.

He recommended that department policies for handling prisoners be updated and that each officer reads those policies.

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