RICHMOND, Va. -- After Richmond officials put a spotlight on safety concerns at the Richmond City Jail, Sheriff Antionette Irving's office polygraph tested at least two deputies, multiple sources told CBS 6.
Sources said the sheriff's office attempted to find out which jail officers have been leaking information from inside the jail to members of the public and the press.
When asked why Irving's office tested her deputies and if it was an appropriate use of the lie detectors, jail administrator Major Stacey Bagby said, "Polygraphs are used to establish information during investigations as they may relate to safety and security."
Bagby said determining who inside the jail may be providing information to outside entities is a matter of safety and security. She gave a few reasons why.
"Safety and security within a jail or prison are key to daily operations. There is an increased opportunity for vulnerabilities when information is not held in confidence. This information may be critical to an ongoing investigation, and the safety of individuals and/or may create a risk to such operations," Bagby said.
Bagby added that keeping information confidential, "helps reduce violence, vandalism, the introduction of illegal and dangerous contraband, unsanitary conditions, etc."
The polygraph tests followed media coverage detailing security challenges within the jail, deputy staffing shortages, reported assaults on jail officers, and violence among inmates.
Councilwoman Reva Trammell requested that the state launch a review of the jail for compliance with regulations after she said she's "repeatedly" heard from deputies and families of inmates who are worried for their safety. Trammell cited recent inmate deaths and attacks on deputies that are "occurring at a disturbing rate."
There have been three reported inmate deaths at the jail this year, including one drug overdose. The causes of death for the other inmates are still pending. CBS 6 obtained more than a dozen jail incident reports, which show at least three deputies who were injured by inmates in just one month.
CBS 6 asked the sheriff's office for the total number of assaults on staff for the year and has not received an answer. The question is now part of a Freedom of Information Act request that the sheriff's office said would cost CBS 6 more than $1,000 to fulfill.
In a previous interview with CBS 6, Sheriff Irving said she believed the incidents are being "blown out of proportion" and that assaults at the jail do not happen often.
"We may have one this month, and we may have one six months or a year down the road, but we’re not having assaults every day. We’re not having assaults every month," Irving said.
Irving said she's currently down about 160 deputies out of 385 total positions which has led to officers who are "overworked, tired, frustrated, and disgruntled."
The sheriff also said a shift in the public's perception of law enforcement during the racial justice movements of 2020 has made it more difficult for her to recruit and retain deputies.
"It's a different eyesight on doing this type of work," she said. "The lack of respect. We are not looked at the same way we used to be looked at."
It's unclear what Sheriff Irving plans to do with the results of the polygraph tests and her office did not confirm what questions were asked. Bagby said she could not give any further information due to "open investigations."