(May 8, 2015) The possibility of establishing a central booking center for county law enforcement was revisited last month, when Lt. Mike McDermott of the Worcester County Sheriff’s office asked the commissioners to consider the concept of a central booking facility at the county jail.
Appearing before the commissioners during a budget hearing, McDermott described a scenario where a deputy making an arrest could be tied up for hours transporting a prisoner between holding facilities and processing sites before a hearing with a court commissioner.
“Moving people around costs money. I don’t care if it’s two miles,” McDermott said, “We can eliminate the transportation need, process them and serve paperwork. After a video conference with the commissioner, they can be released or detained in the jail.”
With the existing system, if there are two deputies on patrol and one makes an arrest, McDermott said, half of the county’s policing resources are then tied up with that prisoner.
If the arrest were made in Pocomoke City, for example, the prisoner would be taken to Snow Hill for processing and to see a commissioner to determine if the suspect can be released or should be detained.
If a commissioner is unavailable in Snow Hill, which McDermott said happens, the deputy would then need to escort the detainee to Ocean City to be heard by a commissioner there. Regardless of the outcome, the officer would then have to return to his or her jurisdiction before resuming enforcement duty.
Once the arrest is made, authorities have 24 hours to charge or release a suspect.
“We are very interested in pursuing,” the central booking concept, Commissioner Jim Bunting said.
In Ocean City, suspects are booked at the jail. Any time someone is arrested, even if the Worcester Street substation is closer, booking takes place at the Public Safety Building on 65th Street. Suspects are searched, fingerprinted and photographed. From there, they are moved into a cell, awaiting a hearing.
McDermott believes a similar concept would work at the Worcester County Detention Center. The county investigated this informally back in 2000-2001, McDermott said. A study done at the time, according to County Administrator Harold Higgins, was more of a question-and-answer session. Higgins said a new study would likely need to be conducted before any additional steps could be taken.
“We will have to determine if the present capacity at the jail can accommodate this new system. The warden does not believe so,” Higgins said.
Assistant County Administrator Kelly Shannahan said it would be up to the sheriff’s office and the warden to present the county with a plan to implement the process.
“The overall objective would be to cut back on overtime, but taking from one means adding to another,” Higgins said.
McDermott said he believes the processing facilities are already in place at the jail, using the same software and hardware already available.
“Implementation is a whole other issue,” McDermott said, “We’d be increasing his workload and he’d probably need some help.”