LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Metro Corrections has changed its procedure of ordering officers to immediately apprehend mistakenly released inmates without first waiting to get a warrant from a judge, following recent advice from the Jefferson County Attorney's office.

The Louisville Corrections Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77 had filed a grievance against the jail, saying officials were violating the law and putting officers in danger -- as well as threatening termination if they failed to follow the orders.

Last week, mediation on the issue was canceled after Metro Corrections agreed to follow advice from the county attorney's office that a "warrant or court order shall be obtained before returning an inmate to custody who does not return voluntarily," according to an county attorney email obtained by WDRB.

In July, Steve Durham, a spokesman for the Metro Corrections, said it was a a public safety issue and the jail needed to act as quickly as possible to apprehend erroneously released inmates, with or without a warrant.

"We're not going to wait to get a warrant before we start looking for an individual who is out of our custody and should be in custody," Durham said at the time. "If we make an error, it's our error and we've got to fix it."

While the jail would start the process of getting a warrant, officers would not waste valuable time needed to catch the individual, Durham said.

"Minutes make a difference," he said at the time.

But judges, attorneys and jail officers said the practice of apprehending someone without a warrant was dangerous and a legal liability for the city. 

In a statement on Friday, Durham said Metro Corrections will contact the county attorney's office to obtain a warrant as soon as the jail "is aware of the details that led to the inadvertent release.

"LMDC will follow the County's Attorney's sound advice and continue to take immediate steps to apprehend an inadvertently released inmate."

Earlier this year, Metro Corrections Sgt. Jim Kitts refused an order to retrieve a mistakenly released inmate, saying he had talked with local judges who told him it was illegal to take into custody a person who was "released in good faith and had not committed any new crimes," according to a complaint he filed in April.

In his complaint, Kitts said he felt his job was threatened when he refused and added that other LMDC officers have been treated the same way in similar incidents. 

Kitts accused Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton, Durham and Chief of Staff Dwayne Clark of ignoring proper procedures  and telling officers they would be fired if they didn't comply with orders.

"No one … should be submitted to these types of threats and coercion from senior staff," Kitts wrote in his complaint obtained by WDRB News.

Durham has denied that any officers were ever threatened with losing their jobs.

Tracy Dotson, president of the Louisville Corrections Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77 has said that the erroneous releases and subsequent illegal orders to track the inmates down without a court order had become a pattern, causing the FOP to file a grievance against the jail.

In an interview on Monday, Dotson said officers are "more than" capable of apprehending mistakenly released inmates but "we would just like this piece of paper, which is simple to get and judges are glad to issue, for the liability and protection of our staff and the people we are trying to apprehend."

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