Guard Fired For Assault On Inmate

Posted: December 19, 1990

A 12-year veteran of the Camden County Sheriff's Department was fired yesterday for assaulting an inmate in a dispute over a meal tray.

Corrections Officer Tyrone Polk, the only county jail guard ever convicted of that offense, was dismissed by Sheriff William J. Simon on the recommendation of a departmental hearing officer, officials said.

"I think there is a deterrent message that has to be sent," said Howard Wilson, the department's special counsel. "You have to be real careful in putting your hands on an inmate when it's not justified."

Sheriff's Department officials also said yesterday that Camden police had charged Polk with aggravated assault, stemming from a Nov. 20 incident in which he allegedly shot at his daughter's boyfriend.

Polk could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Voorhees Township attorney Leonard Baker said he was unaware that his client had been fired. And he disputed the Sheriff's Department's

interpretation of the hearing officer's findings.

"It definitely doesn't recommend termination," Baker said. "It's not saying he has to be terminated, it's saying he can be."

Five other jail guards have been fired this year for allegedly assaulting an inmate. Three corrections officers who were fired earlier this month face possible grand jury indictment for allegedly attacking an inmate who said he was kicked in the groin.

Polk, 44, was convicted in August of assaulting inmate Albert Mannino during a dispute over a meal tray.

As food was served on the morning of July 4, 1989, Mannino quarreled with a sergeant over a dirty spoon he received with his tray. Mannino swore at the officer, and Polk, who was nearby, pushed the inmate into a concrete pillar, according to testimony in Camden Municipal Court.

Mannino, 52, fell and injured his neck and back, testimony showed. Polk was found guilty and ordered to pay $255 in fines.

Sheriff's Department officials sought Polk's dismissal during an internal disciplinary hearing in October, saying the law specified firing as the penalty for a conviction that touches on a guard's job.

Polk remained on duty during the disciplinary process. An appeal of his Municipal Court conviction is pending in county Superior Court.

Sgt. Philip Dollarton, spokesman for Simon, said the sheriff followed the recommendation of hearing officer Joseph Sandone in firing Polk.

"The sheriff said it was a tough decision because he's been a longtime employee," Dollarton said. "However, a deterrent effect must be shown from this conviction."

Baker contended that Sandone's report "leaves open whether or not termination is mandatory or optional."

"Clearly he's recommended termination," countered Wilson, the department's special counsel. "The question was whether it should wait for the appeal, and I think the sheriff felt there's very little chance this would be overturned on appeal. You just can't let this thing drag on forever."

Polk has a history of disciplinary infractions, including insubordination, neglect of duty, unbecoming conduct, lateness, abuse of sick leave and being absent without leave, Wilson said. Those incidents caused Polk to lose about 40 days' pay in suspensions and fines, he said.

Other records show that Polk was charged with assaulting an inmate in 1988. That Municipal Court complaint was dismissed when inmate Edward Hall failed to show up at the hearing.

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