By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
How does a suspect keep getting arrested and released? The answer isn’t as cut-and-dried as some might expect it is.
In April, Robert Kevin Belfield, was arrested by officers from the Keizer Police Department and charged with first- and second-degree burglary in connection with an incident on Harmony Drive Northeast. A day after being arraigned in court, the jail was forced to release Belfield because of overcrowding. He was ordered to appear in court about a week later – which he did – and have no contact with the victims of the crime, who he had been living with at the Harmony Drive address.
Almost a month later, Belfield was arrested on new charges of tampering with a witness and contempt of court. The charges arose because Belfield was suspected of trying to get one of the burglary victims to alter or withhold testimony regarding the burglary a month earlier. This time he stayed in jail for almost a month – longer than the average stay of 17 days – but he was re-released on June 13. Again, he agreed not to contact his victims.
Things took a turn for the worse by late August. Belfield was arrested for a third time on Sept. 1 and charged with criminal mistreatment, strangulation as an act of domestic violence, unlawful use of a firearm and fourth-degree assault. A probable cause statement, reveals an escalating level of violence. It appears to have begun a week before his arrest when he is accused of striking his teenage stepdaughter with the stock of a shotgun and later threw the teen’s mother to the ground and began strangling her. The day prior to his arrest, he allegedly punched the stepdaughter in the mouth and attempted to physically assault the two women after they took shelter in a car. Belfield had been living at the address he was accused of burglarizing, with the victims, since two days after his second release.
When Belfield faced a judge for the latest round of charges, he was ordered to remain in jail – known as a judicial override.
Each time Belfield was taken into the jail, he was assigned a risk score, in a range of 1-100. The risk score is calculated using generally objective data such as age, gender, the type of crime and previous cycles of arrest or incarceration. As the violence accompanying his crimes escalated, so did his score, but it took the final incident to raise his score to 99 out of 100 and a judicial override to keep him locked up.
That seems extreme given that there are 415 beds available at the Marion County jail, but Belfield had steep competition for remaining in a cell.
Each morning, Commander Tad Larson gets a list of the current residents of the Marion County Jail, depending on the exact number, it might be 20 to 25 pages long. Less than two pages represents the number of inmates he could potentially release if someone worse is brought in.
“You rapidly get to medium or high scores,” Larson said.
Showing off the list on a large computer screen Tuesday, Oct. 2, risk scores started in the double digits and rose at least 70 within the first 10 inmates. After the first two dozen, risk scores rise to 90 or higher. By the second page, every inmate has a risk score of 100, then the whole table resets with scores in the single digits. Those first 60 or so inmates are the only ones the jail can consider releasing, everyone after the reset is being held at the request of other agencies, judges or serving out short sentences after conviction.
“We can grant most of the override requests we get, but we have to consider all the options. Some of the guys we are required to hold have low risk scores, but they are considered flight risks,” Larson said.
It explains how someone like Belfield kept sliding into and back out of the jail and why it took another type of intervention to keep him locked up.
“Almost all of us understand how it looks to people on the outside, but we have to address the most serious needs of the community in the moment to figure out who stays and who goes,” Larson said.