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Officer wrongly claimed jail was full

An alleged drunk driver was not jailed, and he drove again

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A Carroll police officer wrongly claimed the county jail was full when he cited and released a suspected drunk driver on Tuesday who allegedly drank more alcohol and drove again later that night, according to Sheriff Ken Pingrey, who oversees the jail.

Kenneth Kayce Harris, 40, of Carroll, was stopped by a police officer about 11:15 p.m. Tuesday for driving with a revoked license and admitted to drinking alcohol but allegedly refused a test of his breath to determine his blood-alcohol concentration.

Carroll Police Officer Tony Amdor transported Harris to the courthouse — which houses the current jail — where Harris failed a series of sobriety tests. Amdor charged him with operating while intoxicated.

The sheriff’s office recently had notified the county’s law enforcement agencies that the jail was at or near its full capacity of 14 inmates and asked them to only jail people for serious crimes.

“Our intent is to never put the public’s safety in jeopardy,” Pingrey told the Times Herald.

Pingrey said a jailer told Amdor that night that a temporary holding cell was available for Harris. The jail often uses the cell to hold intoxicated people until they are sober.

“The holding cell was completely open — it was unoccupied that night,” Pingrey said. “The jailers told him that the cell was unoccupied.”

Police Chief Brad Burke said he is “not sure” about what a jailer might have told Amdor that night, but that “the officer was going off an email we received last week asking officers to cite and release if possible.”

In a criminal complaint, Amdor wrote that Harris “was cited and released due to the full capacity at the jail.”

Pingrey said it is his office’s standard practice to jail suspected drunk drivers overnight to ensure they won’t drive again until they are sober. Burke said his department has no written policy that governs those decisions.

“It is officer discretion to cite and release,” Burke said.

After Harris’ release into someone else’s custody, Amdor saw Harris driving again about 2 a.m. and arrested him again.

“It was apparent at this time that he was more intoxicated than my previous encounter with him,” Amdor wrote in a criminal complaint. He found two open bottles of alcohol in Harris’ vehicle.

Harris was jailed for the second drunk-driving offense. He paid a $2,000 cash bond to be released from jail on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Harris was arrested for drunk driving again in Waukee after a police officer found him asleep in a running vehicle, with a door open and his legs outside.

Harris has been arrested several times in the past two years in Carroll for domestic abuse and public intoxication. In October, Harris allegedly poured gasoline on himself and on police officers who responded to a domestic abuse report and tried to ignite the fuel with a lighter but failed.

A new Carroll County jail that is in the final stages of construction just west of the courthouse will be able to hold more than 40 inmates.

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