Bogus commitment order prompts internal Alaska investigation

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s statewide law enforcement agency is investigating after two troopers escorted one of the state's top school principals to a hospital for a mental health assessment based on a bogus court order, officials said.

Mary Fulp, the principal at Colony High School in Palmer, north of Anchorage, broadcast the encounter with Alaska State Troopers live on Facebook Jan. 18.

“I’m getting taken to the hospital for claiming that Jesus is king and claiming that I stand with the Martin Luther King civil rights movement,” she said. “So, I would like this to show up in the news and for this to go viral because I am the 2022 Alaska Principal of the Year who loves Jesus with all her heart.”

The incident began earlier in the day when someone asked troopers to conduct a welfare check on Fulp because she wasn’t answering her door and he had concerns for her mental health.

“Troopers determined that the adult female was not exhibiting signs of grave disability from a mental health issue and was not likely to cause serious harm to herself or others and therefore did not meet the conditions for emergency detention,” troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel said in a statement.

Nearly five hours later, someone else called 911 stating they had a signed order from a judge to involuntarily commit Fulp to the nearest mental health evaluation facility. Troopers did not identify Fulp by name in the release.

Two other troopers reviewed the purported order and believed it to be authentic. They arrived at Fulp's home, and the primary officer on the case again determined she was not a threat to herself or others, McDaniel said.

The troopers escorted Fulp to a nearby hospital but did not perform an emergency detention allowed under state law, he said.

Two days later, the state Department of Public Safety became aware that the document may not have been a court order as the person who called 911 claimed. The troopers fall under the department.

McDaniel said the state court system denied the troopers’ request for copies of the court order to determine if it was authentic.

“When there is an order, then the order, petition, and a request to transport are given directly to the troopers by the court,” Rebecca Koford, a spokesperson for the Alaska Court System, said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press. “If there is no order or the order denies the petition, the court would normally deny such a request.”

Troopers also spoke to the person who claimed to have had a signed commitment order, but that person declined to provide copies.

“The court did not issue any order to take Ms. Fulp into custody, or to detain her, or to have her undergo a hospitalization for any reason," Koford said. "The actions by law enforcement in this instance were not undertaken or carried out pursuant to or as a result of any court order.”

James Cockrell, the state’s public safety commissioner, has ordered an internal review of troopers’ policies and procedures to make sure incidents like this don’t happen again.

“Based on the limited information we have been able to learn about this incident from the Alaska Court System it appears that we made a mistake by transporting the adult female for an evaluation,” Cockrell said in the statement. “Our staff should have taken additional steps to verify the information presented by the complainant and the validity of the court order.”

“We take full responsibility,” he said. “This type of situation is unacceptable, and you have my commitment that we will do better.”

McDaniel wouldn’t say if the person who offered the bogus court order was being investigated. He said the agency does not confirm open and active investigations and that any criminal charges would be handled by the attorney general’s office.

Fulp, who did not return messages to the AP, said in another Facebook Live video that “some of the things that happened in the past few days were absolutely a violating of my rights.”

“I’m going to be following up with legal counsel because of the things and the way they unfolded, because it’s important that we not only armor up with everything we can with the word of God, but we also respond to injustices,” she said.

Mark Thiessen, The Associated Press