GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

June 7, 2013

Editorial: Essex prisoner talks shows policing needs

Essex Police Chief Peter Silva is certainly right to seek a new, short-term agreement with the town of Manchester over the use of its police lockup to detain prisoners arrested by Essex police.

And it’s good to hear that Manchester officials are cooperatively working with Essex on a new deal that would ease Essex’s current cost of $1,000 up front and then about $150 per prisoner — plus Essex’s own personnel costs its takes to have an officer remain with a given prisoner in Manchester until such time he or she is either transferred or released.

But given all of the factors involved, it would be good if the need for this agreement once again focused own officials’ and residents attention on the real need — the fact that Essex should have a lockup of its own. And that type of facility would certainly be part of a new public safety complex that has for years been on the town’s drawing board, but never seems to make it onto the fast track it needs.

Indeed, the current situation isn’t only about money; the $1,000 up-front cost and the $150 per prisoners for anywhere from 40 to 70 detainees over the course of the year don’t eat up enormous chunks of the town’s budget. But the time and staffing costs of having officers transporting arrestees to Manchester can tax the small department. And while the planned opening of a new prisoner “intake center” now under construction on the grounds of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department complex in Middleton will help, that still doesn’t give Essex police easy access to prisoners for interviews or address other policing issues.

Yes, Essex needs a new deal with Manchester for dealing with prisoners now, and we hope the towns can reach a necessary new agreement. But the real bottom line is that Essex needs a renewed push for tackling its overall public safety needs — a push for the kind of public safety facility the town and its residents need.

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