Washington County’s jail body scanner gets results

Washington County Sheriff’s Office is 1st non-federal agency in Oregon to use body scanners

This is what it looks like when someone goes through the body scanner at Washington County Jail. (KOIN)

HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) – The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is now the first non-federal law enforcement agency in the state to implement a body scanner at its jail.

The sheriff’s office installed the SecurPass scanner on Aug. 31. In the 2 months that followed, they have conducted nearly 1,300 scans.

“The body scanner is different than you might encounter at TSA or the airport,” Washington County Jail Commander Matt Frohnert said.

Contraband (WCSO)

“I believe we’ve done a very good job in our history of getting things that are outside of a person’s body,” Frohnert said. “But when someone secretes, swallows or ingests a harmful substance, often time it can turn life threatening.”

The scanner cost the county $160,000. At the time the sheriff’s office started looking into making a scanner purchase, the cost was closer to $500,000.

If an inmate overdoses inside the jail, taxpayers are often responsible for covering the medical costs and for paying any overtime for deputies who have to be by the inmate’s side at the hospital. In some cases, the medical costs and overtime can be astronomical — depending on the level of overdose.

“That expense (deputy overtime and medical care) is not one we can avoid and it can get very costly,” Frohnert said.

The body scanner has helped conduct nearly 1,300 since being installed at the end of August. (KOIN)

By implementing the scanner, the sheriff’s office is taking a “proactive approach to reduce the likelihood of overdoses within our facility.”

Before purchasing the scanner, the sheriff’s office worked to develop training and policy practices. The scanner will only be used on people who will be lodged into the jail for an extended amount of time. People who are considered “book and releases” will not be scanned and neither will visitors or attorneys.

“We took a conservative approach to our initial policies on use of the body scanners,” said Frohnert.

The sheriff’s office looked to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for legal guidance on how to use the scanner. Some law enforcement agencies have policies that require every inmate be scanned.

The scanner’s technology does not show intimate body parts.

WCSO Corrections Deputy Jelinek is one of the deputies trained on the scanner. For her privacy inside the jail, we are not using her first name. KOIN 6 News conducted a blind test with Jelinek where reporter Brent Weisberg hid a paper clip, 2 pain pills and his glasses throughout his clothing.

The scan took about 5 seconds.

“Something like your glasses is definitely going to stand out,” Jelinek said. “It’s going to be very dark. The more solid [the object is], the more black or dark it will be [on the computer].”

Immediately after the scan, Jelinek was able to find the items hidden in the reporter’s clothing.

KOIN 6 News reporter Brent Weisberg went through a body scanner at the Washington County Jail, November 17, 2017 (KOIN)
KOIN 6 News reporter Brent Weisberg went through a body scanner at the Washington County Jail, November 17, 2017 (KOIN)

“You have a paperclip right here,” Jelinek said quickly.

“Where?” Weisberg asked.

“Right here in your pocket,” Jelinek replied. “Your right pocket.”

The scan also picked up the small circular pain pills.

According to the sheriff’s office, it would take 400 jail body scans to equate to just one medical chest x-ray at a hospital.

The body scanner has helped conduct nearly 1,300 since being installed at the end of August. (KOIN)

Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deputy Jeff Talbot said shortly after the scanner went live, an arrestee came into the jail and was in the booking waiting area. While she was waiting, she bragged to other inmates that she had narcotics on her and would be able to get them through the scanner because she assumed that “only metal shows up.”

The woman later went through the scanner, and a glass pipe and bindle of methamphetamine was seen on the scanner, concealed in a body cavity. She later told deputies in regards to the scanner, “That s—- works!”

According to Talbot, since the implementation, deputies have noticed an increased number of narcotics left behind in the booking area. The sheriff’s office believes it’s because arrestees are seeing the device in the booking area and it is acting as a deterrent.

“And ultimately, that’s okay because the goal is to keep drugs out of the jail,” Frohnert said.

In 2016, the sheriff’s office booked 17,111 individuals into the jail. The jail has a capacity of 572 people and there are only 148 deputies assigned to the jail.