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North Las Vegas jail releases 70 inmates after 'Sick-Out'

North Las Vegas jail releases 70 inmates after 'Sick-Out'

By Marco Villarreal. CREATED May 25, 2012

North Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- 70 inmates are out of jail on purpose. It happened after North Las Vegas Police say too many people called in sick, forcing them to release some criminals early.

Police say there is no need to worry. These inmates are non-violent, but the timing of when these massive sick calls came raises the question: were the unions involved at a time when they're unhappy with the city trying to force raise freezes on its members?

It's a weekend that would force many officers and staff to work overtime at the North Las Vegas detention center when a spike in sick calls came in from colleagues. In total 49 shifts had to get covered last week.

"We can't have mandated overtime that just goes on and on forever. We had to find a fix and it had to be immediate," says Sgt. Tim Bedwell of the North Las Vegas Police Department.

That fix turned out to be the closing of one wing at the jail and a judge signing the release of 70 inmates before their full sentence was served.

"I can assure you that the people that were let go were all on misdemeanors who are going to go back into the community soon anyway," says Sgt. Bedwell.

North Las Vegas Police say the jail already has more staff than they need. Then there's the $33 million budget deficit that has the city also looking at layoffs. Hoping to save jobs the city manager proposed a plan earlier this week that would use a state law to freeze raises and other benefits from police and firefighters.

That did not make the unions happy.

"The city is trying to take two different Nevada revised statutes, combine the two, take the two best parts out of it that apply best to their situation, and try to rewrite what the law says. And it simply won't hold up in court," says Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association.

"Do you think the unions were involved in everyone calling in sick last week," asks Action News.

"I would ask them that, but I absolutely don't believe that. I absolutely don't think this is some sort of coordinated effort on the part of the unions," answers Bedwell.

The unions agree saying they don't condone this type of behavior.

"This is nothing more than a few people that decided to call in sick. For whatever their own individual reasons, I don't know," says Yarter.

North Las Vegas Police say just because this is an unusual event those thinking they can commit crimes and find no empty cells waiting for them are mistaken. There is plenty of room and no more get out of jail free cards.