Sheriff Kevin Joyce said Monday that female attorneys will no longer be asked to remove their underwire bras before being allowed in the Cumberland County Jail in Portland to meet with clients who are in custody.

Joyce spoke at a news conference at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office located next door to the jail in response to at least two attorneys who said his deputies would not admit them to the jail to visit their clients in recent weeks because their bras set off metal detectors.

The sheriff stopped short of publicly apologizing to attorneys Gina Yamartino and Amy Fairfield, who both said they were offended at the request and refused to remove their bras when confronted at the jail’s entrance by Joyce’s deputies.

Yamartino told the Portland Press Herald about half an hour before Joyce’s afternoon news conference that the sheriff had promised her he would issue a public apology for what happened to her at the jail last week and to Fairfield the week before.

“That would satisfy the issue for me,” Yamartino said.

But Joyce said at the news conference that he is not yet ready to apologize. He first wants an investigator from his office to conduct interviews with the attorneys and members of his staff.

“It’s not that I’m not going to (issue an apology). I’m going to, but I need to know specifically what happened,” Joyce said afterward.

“I can tell you there is no policy that suggests that people who are coming into the jail wearing an underwire bra, having a hip/knee/shoulder replacement, have a prosthetic limb or having any other piece of metal that might be in their body that they are going to be refused entry into the jail,” he said.

Joyce said he had signed off on a new policy drafted by his jail administrator, Maj. John Costello, that everyone coming into the jail must successfully pass through the scanner. The issue of the underwire bras came up months later.

The manufacturer of the metal detector used at the jail, CEIA-USA, said Friday that a small amount of metal can set off a detector, and that the detectors can be adjusted for sensitivity.

Joyce didn’t know whether the issue came up because the jail’s metal detector was adjusted to be more sensitive, causing the metal in underwire bras to set it off, or whether some officers were applying the scanner policy more stringently. He said that would be part of the investigator’s review.

Joyce hired Costello as his jail administrator last year after multiple security breaches at the jail, including inmates escaping from maximum-security cells for sexual trysts and others smuggling drugs into the facility. As part of Costello’s approach to increase security, he added the more stringent metal detector policy. Costello did not attend the news conference.

“The policy is real clear, no weapons and contraband. It doesn’t say anything about underwire bras,” Joyce said.

Other items that routinely set off the metal detector are watches, rings, bracelets and keys. But officers at the jail’s entrance can visually assess those items, unlike underwire bras, and hand them back to the attorneys, he said.

Joyce said he didn’t appreciate the manner in which he first learned about the issue, first in a phone call Friday afternoon from Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren and then in a phone conversation with a Press Herald reporter.

“I can’t fix what I don’t know,” Joyce said.

But Joyce said responsibility ultimately falls to him, and he has instructed his staff to allow female attorneys into the jail to meet with their clients even if their underwire bras trigger the metal detector.

“I’ve told the staff that if someone comes in, the appropriate way to handle it now is not going to be that they will be requested to take that piece of lingerie off. It’s never been that way, even though one person has suggested that they were asked that. We will be looking into that aspect of it,” Joyce said. “We require the officers to follow the policy and use their discretion. In this particular case, we did not use guidance on how to handle this. But the buck does stop with me in that I will make sure now that they have sensitivity training on how to deal with this and awareness of other ways of doing this.”

As of Monday, officers at the jail were being instructed to use a metal detector on inmates after they meet with visitors from the outside and to pat them down to ensure they were given no forbidden objects, Joyce said.

Fairfield said Joyce returned her call Monday, but she remains unsatisfied with the sheriff’s response.

“I appreciate that he recognizes that I shouldn’t have to take off my clothes to see my clients,” Fairfield said.

But she said Joyce “seems to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth,” trying to placate the attorneys and support his staff at the same time.