HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico Police Chief Eric English admitted in a social media post to the community Thursday night that his department could have alerted the public sooner about an inmate who escaped from St. Mary’s Hospital just before 6 a.m. on Aug. 12.
“We recognize at this point there was an opportunity to get the message out sooner,” English said.
His lengthy statement comes after CBS 6 highlighted concerns raised by Henrico residents for more than six weeks about why the county waited for nearly three hours to send out an alert.
We requested interviews with the Chief of Police, the County Manager and Board of Supervisors members, and we emailed residents’ questions to them, but each time our questions went unanswered.
In his statement, Chief English said his investigators were focused on “apprehending the inmate” who escaped just before 6 a.m., yet “unfortunately that did not occur.”
Henrico County sent a reverse 911 alert to people who live near the hospital about the escapee, but it went out at 8:37 a.m., which was nearly three hours after Naseem Roulack walked out of the hospital.
In the hours and days that followed, people who live near the hospital raised concerns to CBS6 about the delayed message.
“It really just exposed a major breakdown in countywide communications,” Erin Nord, who lives near the hospital, said.
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But, we were never able to get an answer or interview from the department about the delay.
So, on Aug. 28, CBS6 reporter Cameron Thompson tried to ask Chief English about the delay at a public event, but he declined to address the subject.
On Sept. 20, we again asked Chief English if he would like to sit down for an interview to answer our questions instead of having that exchange air, but a spokesperson “respectfully declined” the request.
So, on Wednesday we aired the exchange.
Twenty-four hours later, the Chief put his statement on the police department’s social media accounts.
After addressing the delayed 911 alert, English referenced his interaction with CBS 6 and said he told Thompson he would not be addressing the incident because he was at the event to support an anti drunk driving campaign.
News reporters often attend public events attended by public officials and ask them questions unrelated to the event while there.
English also said in his statement that Henrico Police understand the importance of both “keeping the community safe and communicating with them about an active incident.”
CBS 6 asked Henrico Police if they have a new communications policy in place, where instead of answering reporters questions directly, they instead post statements on their social media channels directed to the community.
A spokesperson said each media inquiry and interview request is handled on a case by case basis.
The spokesperson also said “when receiving inquiries from multiple news outlets/community members regarding the same incident, the Office of Public Affairs, by approval, shall utilize various social media/networking applications to allow the general public unedited access to the same message.”
Click herefor Chief English’s full statement.
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