The Chandler and Gilbert police departments are working toward finalizing a partnership to expand and jointly operate Gilbert’s holding facility to reduce costs and travel time spent shuttling prisoners to the Maricopa County jail in downtown Phoenix.
The move could save each municipality $150,000 annually and keep police officers in their respective communities instead of in-transit to and from Phoenix.
The two sides are meeting weekly to finalize details and initial costs to upgrade Gilbert’s facility at its Public Safety Complex near Gilbert and Warner roads. The funds still must be approved by each City or Town Council as part of the budget process for the upcoming fiscal year.
The approximately $300,000 cost for construction would be split evenly between Chandler and Gilbert, and will be made up in cost savings in fiscal year 2016 and then each year after, said Chandler Police Commander Gregg Jacquin.
“This is about saving money and streamlining our operations,” Jacquin said. “In Chandler, we spend about a half-million dollars annually on booking fees and rebooking fees at the county jail, and we don’t even calculate the time lost when an officer has to make the trip downtown, a trip that can take up to four hours.
“We’ll both realize cost savings in funds, but also in time.”
Currently, when an officer makes an arrest, the suspect must be transported to Phoenix for booking and an overnight stay. In most cases, the prisoner is due back in court, either in Chandler or Gilbert, the next day. An officer must again travel to Phoenix.
Both Chandler and Gilbert have holding facilities but neither is equipped to hold prisoners overnight.
Proposed upgrades to the Gilbert facility for this project include additional security, food and medical services to run a 24-hour operation. Technology upgrades also are in the plans so the booking systems of each police department will work with the other.
The hope on both sides is to have the facility operational by late July.
“It’s a really aggressive schedule,” Jacquin said.
Gilbert Cmdr. Pete Smith first presented the plan to the Gilbert Town Council in late January, which was perceived at the time to be a new jail. Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn said that’s not the case.
“The important difference is that jail facilities are for long-term detention of inmates who have been sentenced by the courts, based on a conviction,” Dorn said. “Our facility will hold persons for no more than 24 hours. Misdemeanor prisoners will be held until they have their initial appearance before a judge in our municipal court. They will be released from our facility, or the court, if the judge orders a release.”
Dorn said no additional prisoners will be released in Gilbert than under the current system.
Both Chandler and Gilbert used to book prisoners into a holding facility at the county’s Southeast Regional Facility near Mesa Drive and Baseline Road in Mesa. That facility, however, no longer is in use, Jacquin said, and the booking costs for Chandler and Gilbert have continued to rise.
“This proposal will allow Chandler and Gilbert to combine our resources in order to keep police officers in our community while reducing costs to our citizens,” Dorn said.
Chandler already submitted a request for an additional detention officer in its budget proposal, which would bring the staff to 10, and Gilbert could look to add another detention officer as well.
Items still to be finalized before any construction and remodel begins include: the intergovernmental agreement between the two police departments and how the two operations will meld into the same set of guidelines.
“This is a great example of innovative thinking in law enforcement,” Jacquin said. “It has a lot of potential.”
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