(March 29, 2013) The deputies of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office could get more work done if they did not have to spend so much time with paperwork after arresting suspects, Sheriff Reggie Mason told the Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday.
“It just takes way, way too long,” he said, as he asked them to “consider central booking for us and the towns.”
When a deputy makes an arrest, the required paperwork and trip to the Sheriff’s Office in Snow Hill can mean that he or she cannot do road patrol or respond to incidents for three hours. Although the deputy would still have to drive to Snow Hill if the requested change is made, that deputy “could be back on the road in 20 minutes” because much of the paperwork would be done by others.
The decision to have central booking is not up to the sole discretion of the county commissioners. The county must seek the approval of the state courts and the District Court commissioners, who would most likely be in favor of it because, Mason said, they are concerned about having to open the District Court in Ocean City or in Snow Hill at night when arrestees are brought in.
Mason suggested that central booking be instituted at the county jail in Snow Hill. Even though it lacks sufficient space, Mason said, Warden Garry Mumford does have the personnel to do the job.
The county’s municipalities also have shown interest in central booking, largely because of the time-saving factor, Mason said.
Part of the problem, according to Mason, is because of the county’s growth, particularly in the West Ocean City area, where there are increasing calls for service. Several new businesses have located there and a 78-unit hotel will be built. Between West Ocean City and Berlin are the Super WalMart and Home Depot with Ocean Landings II in construction.
In addition to new businesses are new events, such as the upcoming Delmarva Chicken Festival in Snow Hill, which requires the use of deputies. Those events sometimes result in the need for overtime pay for deputies, who already have a heavy workload.
There is no overtime pay for the 25 part-time deputies, many of whom are retired from the Ocean City Police Department. These part-timers provide security at Circuit Court and at the County Government Center in Snow Hill. Part-time deputies also transport inmates to and from various locales, including those on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay. As many as four Worcester County Sheriff’s Office vehicles have traveled over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in one day, Mason said.
Part-time deputies made 242 transports in 2011 and 289 in 2012. This resulted in 52,243 miles traveled in 2011 and 61,293 miles in 2012.
Forty-two percent of those trips were because of arrests in Ocean City.
As an example, if a person is jailed in Baltimore, but has charges in Ocean City, the City of Baltimore might drop its charges and release the inmate to face the Ocean City charges. This means deputies must travel to Baltimore to pick up the inmate and transport him to the jail in Snow Hill. Because of officer safety considerations, two part-time deputies are required for the trip.
Although Mason did not give exact numbers, he said the number of hours spent providing security in courtrooms at Circuit Court has also increased. The number of jury trials has increased and the length of those jury trials has increased. In years past, court used to conclude at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m., and although it still concludes early on some days, on days when jury trials are held, the courtroom can be in use until 7 p.m.
As it is, deputies have assignments that range from law enforcement and government security to process serving and evictions. Altogether, the Sheriff’s Office has 70 sworn personnel, eight clerical workers, one evidence manager, four Animal Control employees and seven crossing guards.
In his budget request for fiscal year 2014, Mason is requesting $7.54 million, an increase of 42 percent over the fiscal year 2013 budget of $5.3 million. The largest portion of that increase would be for the 13 deputies to be hired to provide security at county schools.