After months of trading accusations...Bexar County and the City of San Antonio today agreed to work together to make the new central booking facility at the county jail usable to both the Police and Sheriff's Departments, as well as police departments in suburban cities, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Police Chief Bill McManus last month referred to the new facility, which opened adjacent to the county jail last year, as a 'nightmare,' because it takes as long as two hours for one of his officers to book a drunk driving suspect into the jail using the facility. That takes the officer off the street for one quarter of his or her shift...and forces taxpayers to pay more because more officers have to be on the streets to take up the slack.
Sheriff Javier Salazar, a 27 year SAPD veteran before he was elected sheriff, says he will make the needed changes.
"I don't want to be the reason that officers are delayed and response times go up," Salazar said. "So he (Chief McManus) and I are working to make sure that doesn't happen."
The current facility that the SAPD uses to book inmates into jail, on South Frio Street, is set to be demolished as part of the aggressive expansion of the downtown campus of UTSA.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg says it is critical that different branches of government work together.
"The public expects us to use tax dollars in a prudent manner, and the issues surrounding the city's refusal to move to the new annex have gotten a lot of scrutiny," he mayor said.
He met today with County Judge Wolff and suburban city officials, and promised that the issues will be resolved. There had been talk about the City spending more than a million dollars to build its own booking facility.
"We will craft a path forward that addresses our mutual booking and magistration needs," Nirenberg said. "We are committed to blending our operations at the Justice and Detention Annex, to efficiently make use of Bexar County's investment in the facility to insure the most effective deployment of our law enforcement officers."
Among the issues that the two sides had trouble deciding on is how to deal with mentally ill prisoners. San Antonio Police, obviously, arrest far more people who are homeless and have unique challenges, and the concept that the Sheriff used of an 'open booking' facility, where people sit in a room rather than a holding cell while they are being processed is not suitable for these people.
SAPD has also expressed a concern about a lack of space and facilities to store the personal property of people who are arrested, so it can be handled safely.
Both the City and the County said negotiations will resume and a cost will be determined for handling the issues.