Bexar County Seeks to Defuse Spat with SAPD Over Booking Facility

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is trying to defuse a dispute which has broken out between the City and the County over the County's new $12 million booking facility which recently opened adjacent to the Bexar County Jail west of downtown, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Police Chief Bill McManus told City Council this week that the facility has been described to him as a 'nightmare' for officers because it takes too long to process prisoners.

"An officer was concerned about, and this is a quote, the 'nightmare' of taking a prisoner over to the county's facility," McManus said.  "The got hung up over there for more than two hours."

McManus has long been concerned about the time his officers have to spend doing everything from filling out paperwork to processing prisoners' belongings during routine arrests.  He says that takes officers off the streets for two long, and costs taxpayers unnecessary expense in additional personnel to patrol the city while officers are busy with booking paperwork.

In a letter Wednesday to City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval, who heads the Council Public Safety Committee, Wolff said for a cost of $1.4 million per year, the county will ensure that there are sufficient staff in place at the new facility so that 'SAPD Officers are not delayed in the arrest process.'

Wolff noted that under his proposal, the cost to the city to book arrestees into the jail would be $40 per inmate.  That's compared to the $262.00 per inmate the city is now paying, and also means the city could save the current costs of housing prisoners at magistrate's court while they are waiting to be processed.

Wolff says the county will also agree to a request by the city to enlarge the magistrate courtroom at the county facility.  The county is also prepared to expand the facilities available to process DWI offenders, including new space for breathalyzer machines, as well as additional space for prosecutors to do their jobs at the county facility.

He says a report of all of the arrests conducted last weekend showed that the average SAPD officer who took a prisoner to the new county facility was back on the streets within 30 minutes.

"Since the county facility opened, we have seen an increase in the number of people released into the community on Personal Recognizance Bonds, an increase in individuals assessed by mental health clinicians, and timely access to representation by the public defenders office," Wolff wrote.

McManus has complained that the SAPD didn't receive adequate input into the design of the new county facility, and it is not in line with the needs of his officers.

"Officers accounts of what has happened over there is that they get hung up, the last person I talked with, said for a couple of hours," McManus said.

Councilman expressed concern that the dispute will result in the city having to build its own prisoner intake facility, at an extra cost to taxpayers.  

The existing facility the city uses to process inmates is in the footprint of the expansion of UTSA's downtown campus and is set to be demolished.

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