2 Durham County detention officers fired, charged with assault after incident with inmate

The Durham County jail on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.
The Durham County jail on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. vbridges@heraldsun.com

Two Durham County detention officers were charged with misdemeanor assault and fired Friday after an investigation found one of the officers used excessive force against an inmate, according to the sheriff’s office.

Joseph Harris, a 25-year-old detention officer, filed a use-of-force report Sept. 23 related to an incident with an inmate, according to information provided by the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.

Harris’s supervisor reviewed the report and surveillance video of the incident, which the inmate did not report. The inmate later told officials he was not injured, the sheriff’s office said. The supervisor believed there was evidence of excessive force and forwarded the information to sheriff’s office officials.

Internal and criminal investigations followed, and Harris was charged. He had been working in Durham as a detention officer since May 21.

Austin Taylor, 26, was charged with accessory to assault. Taylor was hired on July 5, 2016.

“This does not reflect the work efforts of the men and women of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Mike Andrews in a statement. “Incidents such as these will not be tolerated and will be addressed through the courts. It is unfortunate that we had to take this action against two of our own today.”

Col. Anthony Prignano, interim chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, said the primary responsibility of a detention officer is caring for those housed in the jail.

“If there is any connection between officer and community, it is one of trust. Once that link is severed, difficult decisions must be made,” Prignano said in a statement. “In this incident, termination and charges were prudent. Our employees are dedicated servants and the actions of these individuals do not reflect the work ethic of this agency. “

The Durham County Detention Center employs 196 detention officers and 18 civilians.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges