State police, misled by a bogus warrant, detained the school’s principal for a mental health check.

State troopers mistakenly detained Alaska’s 2022 principal for a mental health exam last week after a family member presented cops with a document they said was signed by a state judge. .

That was not true, and Troopers and Alaska’s court system confirmed the error Tuesday, six days after Colony High School Principal Mary Fulp posted video of the incident and claimed she was being held for her religious beliefs.

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

“Based on the limited information we have been able to obtain about this incident from the Alaska Court System, it appears that we made a mistake in transporting the adult female for evaluation. Our staff should have taken additional steps to verify the information submitted by the whistleblower and the validity of the court order,” Cockrell said in a written statement. “We take full responsibility for this and want to assure the public that we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that incidents like this never happen again. This type of situation is unacceptable, and you have my commitment that we will do better.”

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

“The court did not issue any order to detain Ms. Fulp, detain her or hospitalize her for any reason,” Rebecca Koford, a spokeswoman for the court system, said in an email Tuesday in response to the KTUU story. “The law enforcement actions in this case were not undertaken or carried out pursuant to or as a result of a court order.”

Hours later, Alaska State Police released a written account of the events on January 18 in which Fulp was escorted to a Matanuska-Susitna Township hospital for a mental health evaluation.

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

State law allows police and mental health experts to detain someone involuntarily if they are “likely to cause serious harm to self or others” immediately.

Soldiers responded and determined that he did not meet the conditions for emergency mental health custody. Hours later, a second caller said she had a written order from a judge agreeing that Fulp should be detained to assess her mental health.

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

An attorney familiar with the state’s mental health commitment procedures and not affiliated with this case said that should have been a red flag.

In the normal course of events, if a petitioner seeks to involuntarily commit someone into custody for mental health reasons, the petitioner must present evidence to a judge, who will seek the advice of a medical professional, assuming the petitioner is not one. themselves.

A third party interviews the person subject to the proposed order and then reports to the judge. If the judge orders the person to be committed, the judge contacts the public security officials themselves. The petitioner is not involved.

Koford said he has no documents associated with what happened on the 18th, but “when there is a warrant, we send local authorities a transport request, and that’s what they use.”

In this case, “no application was submitted,” Koford said.

On Friday, the Beacon, citing a notice that claimed the warrant was false, requested copies of the warrant and was told that state law keeps those records confidential and the request “will likely be denied.”

According to the troopers’ account, “on Friday, January 20, 2023, the Alaska Department of Public Safety was advised that the documents…presented to the troopers may not have been a court order authorizing the involuntary commitment of the adult. feminine. DPS Commissioner Cockrell has ordered a full review of the incident.”

The court system denied the Troopers’ request to examine documents associated with the incident, but Tuesday’s court system statement confirmed the error.

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

In 2021, Governor Mike Dunleavy proposed changes to state laws governing involuntary commitments for mental health reasons, and the Legislature adopted those changes last year. The incident last week does not appear to imply those changes.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Security declined to say whether the relative deliberately falsified documents or whether the mistake was an innocent mistake. The spokesman also declined to say if there are charges pending.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Fulp is the principal of Colony High School. She is the principal of Colony High School and was the principal of the middle school until the beginning of the current school year.

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

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