EXCLUSIVE: 10 News investigates report that Covington officer left child unattended outside mental health facility

Internal Affairs Review and has concluded that the Officer acted in good faith

A report that a Covington police officer showed negligence in the transport of a minor to a mental health facility has many people upset with the exchange.

COVINGTON, Va. – A report that a Covington police officer showed negligence in the transport of a minor to a mental health facility has many people upset with the exchange.

A complaint states that the officer left a child unattended outside a mental health facility early Saturday morning. The department launched an investigation into what happened.

The incident happened at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents.

10 News reached out to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services about the incident.

“An incident occurred over the weekend where a child was dropped off at a CCCA in a very unsafe manner. We understand the incident is being investigated by the Covington Police Department and we will assist in this investigation in any way possible. Importantly, the child is now safe and receiving treatment,” said Meghan McGuire, chief public relations officer with the department.

The Covington Police Department is looking into the temporary detention order and reviewed the officer’s body camera. Police confirm that the child in question was actually a 16-year old. Investigators say it shows the officer brought the teen to the waiting area but was told he’d have to wait an hour before the facility would admit the juvenile.

“The Covington Police Officer who recognized the need for mental health assistance is the exact same Officer who acted in earnest to carry out their legal obligation as the TDO directed once issued, however they were prevented from fully doing so, by staff on site at the hospital,” said Covington city manager Krystal Onaitis.

The officer appeared to then leave the teen in the lobby and drive away. However, Covington Police Chief Chris Smith said the officer did stay on the premises and confirmed the child was admitted shortly after. All of this took place in about 15 minutes.

“He brought the child inside the lobby of the facility and after the interaction occurred, the officer basically walked back to his vehicle and drove a short distance, never leaving the actual property. Our officer never left the fenced-in grounds,” said Chris Smith, chief of police. “Through the investigation it was the intention of the officer to give them the appearance he actually left to force them to bring that child into that location.”

“Upon notification, Chief Smith issued an immediate directive for an Internal Affairs Review to take place per policy, given the nature of the concerns raised. This was not only consistent with policy but also warranted given the conflicting accounts that were relayed the day of, and those that have been relayed in the last five days to the media,” added Onaitis.

Smith also said that he understands the limitations mental health facilities have, but there needs to be a better way to prevent taking an officer away from other duties to wait for someone to get admitted.

“Essentially what they’re dealing with is something similar we’re dealing with, low staffing. And the problem they’re having is the same problem we’re having. And they’re restricted with the amount of folks they can take in.”

This incident brings attention to a bigger issue - the shortage of behavioral health professionals, sometimes resulting in a lack of ability to take in more people.

You can watch the bodycam footage from the incident below:

10 News is investigating after a complaint states that a Covington officer left a child unattended outside a mental health facility early Saturday morning.

Below is a press release from the Covington Police Department about its response to the incident:


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