Misled by false court order, state troopers detain school principal for mental health checkup

Commissioner Jim Cockrell of the Alaska Department of Public Safety speaks at a May 3, 2022 news conference in Wasilla. Cockrell has ordered an investigation after a school principal was mistakenly detained for a mental health test. (Photo by Yareth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

State troopers mistakenly took Alaska’s 2022 Principal of the Year into custody for a mental health test last week after a family member presented troopers with a document she said was signed by a state judge. Had gone.

That was not true, and troopers and the Alaska court system confirmed the mistake on Tuesday, six days after Colony High School principal Mary Fulp posted a video of the incident and claimed she was being detained because of her religious beliefs. Used to be.

The department said Commissioner James Cockrell of the Alaska Department of Public Safety has ordered a full internal review of the incident.

“Based on the limited information we have received about this incident from the Alaskan court system, it appears that we made a mistake by taking the adult female in for evaluation. additional steps should have been taken to verify the validity of the information and court order submitted by the Incidents should not happen again. This type of situation is unacceptable, and I have a commitment that we will do better.”

After Anchorage’s KTUU-TV published a story about the video, Representative David Eastman, R-Wasilla, and Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer spoke about the issue in the state legislature.

“The court did not issue an order detaining Ms. Fulp, or requiring her to be detained, or hospitalized for any reason,” Rebecca Koford, a spokeswoman for the court system, said in an emailed response Tuesday. KTUU Story. “The action by law enforcement in this instance was not taken or taken as a result of or pursuant to a court order.”

Hours later, Alaska State Troopers released a written account of events on January 18, which saw Fulp taken to Matanuska-Susitna Borough Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

According to his account, the troopers received a call Wednesday morning requesting a welfare check on Fulp.

State law allows police and mental health experts to involuntarily detain a person if they “could cause serious harm to themselves or others” immediately.

Troops responded and determined that she did not meet the conditions for emergency mental health detention. Hours later, a second caller said they had a written order from a judge that Fulp be taken into custody to be evaluated for his mental health.

The official account stated, “Soldiers observed that the document appeared to be signed by a judge and appeared to be valid.”

An attorney familiar with the state’s mental health commitment procedures and unrelated to the case said that should have been a red flag.

Under the normal course of events, if a petitioner is seeking involuntary detention of someone on the grounds of mental health, the petitioner must present evidence to a judge, who will seek the advice of a medical professional – assuming It happened that the petitioner is not himself.

A third party interviews the person subject to the proposed order, then advises the judge. If the judge orders the person committed, the judge himself contacts the public safety officers. The petitioner is not involved.

Coford said he did not have documents relating to what happened on the 18th, but “when there is an order, we send requests for transport to local law enforcement, and they use that.”

In this case, “no request was sent,” Coford said.

On Friday, the Beacon, citing a tip claiming the order was erroneous, requested copies of the court order and was informed that state law keeps those records confidential and the request “will likely be denied.” “

According to the Troopers’ account, “On Friday, January 20, 2023, it was brought to the attention of the Alaska Department of Public Safety that … the document presented to the Troopers did not contain a court order authorizing involuntary commitment of an adult.” Could. Female. DPS Commissioner Cockrell has ordered a full review of the incident.

The court system denied the troopers’ request to examine documents related to the incident, but a statement from the court system on Tuesday confirmed the mistake.

“With this new information Troopers now believe that the document that was presented to Troopers … was not a valid court order for involuntary commitment,” Troopers said.

In 2021, Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed changes to state laws governing involuntary commitments for mental health reasons, and the Legislature adopted those changes last year. Those changes are not included in last week’s event.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety declined to say whether the family member intentionally falsified documents or whether the mistake was an innocent error. The spokesperson also declined to say whether charges are pending.

Alaska Beacon is part of the States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Andrew Kitchenman with questions: [email protected] Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter,

Leave a Comment