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Buckley council OKs contracts to house city's jail inmates

Members of the Buckley City Council approved three outside jail contracts for the city’s police department when they gathered Oct. 9.

The department is preparing to close the Buckley jail by the end of November and will subsequently farm out prisoners to the cities of Enumclaw, Puyallup and Fife. Those charged with driving under the influence will be processed through neighboring Enumclaw Jail.

The contract with Fife offers the most guaranteed bed space, at 270 beds during a 90-day period. Those beds will be averaged out to three a day.

“If we bring in no arrests one day and bring in six guys the next, they won’t charge us an overage for the six,” Buckley Police Chief Jim Arsanto said to the council.

Fife’s shortcoming – one shared by Puyallup – is its distance from Buckley. Councilman Bryan Howard pointed out that transporting a single prisoner to Fife’s jail facility would merit a two-hour round trip.

There are periods of the day in Buckley – typically at night – when only one patrol officer is on duty, rendering a two-hour trip out of town untenable.

That’s where the jails of Enumclaw and Puyallup come in. Both facilities will be used for on-call, first come-first serve inmate housing. Both have capacity to house female inmates.

The Enumclaw jail, particularly, may be used to “juggle” inmates during understaffed shifts: prisoners could be booked into nearby Enumclaw until enough officers are on shift to safely transfer said prisoners to Fife, which has a more favorable housing rate per day.

Enumclaw’s jail will be used for processing DUI arrests. Unless an alleged drunk driver refuses to submit to testing or requests a blood draw at a medical facility, the suspect will blow into a device at the police station or jail, measuring blood-alcohol content based on a breath sample. That sample may later be submitted to the presiding court as evidence. This device is in contrast to police officers’ portable breath screeners, which contribute to the initial judgment call to arrest a suspect.

Because the human body eliminates alcohol over time, a test needs to be administered within a reasonably short period after an arrest. For a suspect whose BAC reading is borderline at the time of arrest, an hour can mean the difference in a conviction.

“We were originally gung-ho about continuing to process DUIs in our police station,” Arsanto told the council. “We later decided against it, because if we have to leave a suspect alone, we won’t have a camera to monitor him, or anyone in dispatch to watch a camera monitor. So there could have been a liability issue.”

The Enumclaw and Puyallup contracts are set to renew annually and the Fife contract extends to 2015, provided it isn’t terminated by Buckley or Fife at an earlier date.

It is probable that these contracts are a stopover before Buckley signs a contract with the SCORE Multijuridictional Misdemeanant Jail, Arsanto said.

 

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