In the months since a parolee walked away from a drug treatment program and fatally shot Unified Police Department Officer Doug Barney, the Utah Division of Adult Probation and Parole has made significant improvements under new leadership, corrections officials said Wednesday.
The changes include the assignment of AP&P agents to the U.S. Marshals Service's Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (VFAST) and the Salt Lake Metro Gang unit, as well as enhanced GPS monitoring of offenders and the implementation of broadcasts about high-profile fugitives to law enforcement officers statewide.
In addition to increasing public safety, AP&P is working to help parolees and probationers succeed, AP&P Director James Hudspeth said.
"We have to balance accountability along with offender opportunities," said Hudspeth, who became AP&P director in the wake of Barney's death and two other parolee-police confrontations.
Barney was killed in January by Cory Lee Henderson, who died in a shootout with other officers. In a separate incident that month, a parolee released after a misstep by parole officials was shot and wounded in a confrontation with police. And in February, a parolee who absconded from a halfway house allegedly stole a car and rammed a police cruiser before escaping on foot.
As Gov. Gary Herbert announced a comprehensive review of Utah's probation and parole system in February, the AP&P director and a regional administrator for the division resigned. Hudspeth, then-director of the Department of Corrections' Law Enforcement Bureau, was appointed to the top AP&P spot the next month.
A Department of Corrections news release issued Wednesday said AP&P has apprehended 329 probation or parole fugitives from February to June. That was more than the usual number picked up in that time frame due to a concentrated effort, Hudspeth told The Tribune.
In addition, AP&P worked with VFAST to catch more than 50 high-priority fugitives, the news release said. A full-time agent from the division has been part of the strike force since February. AP&P also has one agent working full-time and three working part-time with the gang unit and 15 agents assigned part-time to fugitive search teams statewide.
A notification system that the division and the Utah Department of Public Safety implemented has helped boost the captures, Hudspeth said. In the event of a high-profile walkaway, AP&P is notified immediately as soon as the fugitive comes into contact with an officer, such as in a traffic stop, he said.
In the past six months, AP&P also has:
• Implemented a pilot program in collaboration with the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to detox parole violators at the Davis County Jail prior to admittance to centers that provide intensive treatment. This prevents offenders who are using drugs or alcohol from upsetting the sober-living communities and reduces walkaway risks.
• Inspected community correctional centers to ensure policies and procedures were adequate to provide safe operations.
• Improved communication throughout the division.