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Central booking facility discussed

October 09, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday that they are interested in hearing more about a proposed central booking facility that would speed up the arrest process for area police departments, comments that drew skepticism from Sheriff Charles F. Mades.

A central booking facility would lessen the time police officers spend processing their arrests, thus allowing the officers to get back on the roads faster.

Mades, who was not at the meeting, said later Tuesday that he questioned the sincerity of the commissioners' statements because they rejected an earlier proposal to create the facility.

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"All of a sudden, now we want to talk about it again when you folks killed it," Mades said. "Call me when somebody's serious."

He said discussion about the facility was "hot and heavy" through June, but the commissioners rejected the proposal because the county didn't have funding for it.

He said the facility would cost several million dollars.

Mades said he thinks the commissioners resurrected the issue because of election-time pressures from neighborhood watch groups pushing for it.

The commissioners denied they rejected the proposal and said they want more information on the cost of the facility and its feasibility.

"Right now, I don't have a clue whether it would be beneficial or not, because we haven't had all the facts presented to us," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said after the meeting.

"We don't even know what it's going to cost," Commissioner Bert Iseminger said.

"We just basically need more fact-finding," Commissioners Vice President Paul L. Swartz said.

Later, Swartz said the facility would be a good idea "if the money came with it."

Mades said the Washington County Detention Center could be renovated to create space for the facility. He also said about eight correctional employees would be hired to staff the facility.

The correctional employees would process the arrests, freeing law enforcement officers from that duty, he said.

"I'd love to see it," Mades said. "It would really help everybody."

Commissioner William Wivell said after the meeting that, although the facility isn't a "dead issue," he doubts it will ever come about because of a history of disagreements between the city and county. He said the county would need financial cooperation from the state and city to proceed, because the county shouldn't pay all the costs.

"The reality of it is it's probably not going to happen," Wivell said.

Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said the city supports the central booking idea and will work with the county Sheriff's Department on the issue.

Exactly how a central booking facility would be staffed or funded has not been determined, he said.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said all of the law enforcement agencies in the county support the facility, and that the state would pay for some of the costs.

Smith, whose department made 4,000 arrests last year, said such a facility would save a lot of hours for police officers.

Snook said he doubts the state will pitch in at this time because of its budget constraints during the economic downturn.

"Unless the state says, 'yeah, we have some money,' I don't think we can pursue it," Snook said. "I think it's slim that they would help us out."

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