City jail proposed after inmates turned away

Published 7:06 pm Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Florala Chief Sonny Bedsole told council members Monday “if we can’t get inmates booked in the (Covington County) jail…we don’t need to answer calls for the county that require our officers to take a police action.”
Now, he’s asking that city jail be re-opened so that the city can house its own prisoners.

Bedsole said he came to the decision after “two times in two weeks” that FPD arrests were refused entry into the county jail. The first occurred last week following a domestic violence arrest. After his arrest, the man, who said he had cancer, claimed he couldn’t remember if he’d taken his medicine. Bedsole said when jail staff refused to house the man, it required one of his two officers “to sit for 12 hours with his eye on him.”

“With a domestic violence arrest, there’s a mandatory 12-hour holding period,” Bedsole said. “When the jail won’t accept them, that’s a whole lot of babysitting.”

The second incident came on Friday after a female allegedly carrying drugs was arrested following a police pursuit that ended in a car crash. The Crestview, Fla., woman refused medical treatment and was arrested on drug charges; however, jail staff also refused her entry into the county jail.

“Jail staff said that without a doctor signing off, they would not take her,” Bedsole said. “Kinda hard to get a doctor to sign off when the suspect refused medical treatment.

“That’s the second time in two weeks, and I think it’s time to look at the alternate.

“I mean no disrespect to (Sheriff Dennis Meeks),” he said. “I understand he’s concerned with liability, but so am I.”

Bedsole said the city has two officers on shift at night. It takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes for an FPD officer to get a person arrested in Florala booked into the county jail.

Additionally, the city pays $31.50 for housing and meals per inmate. And while November through January is a typically slow period for arrests, Bedsole said the city must soon prepare for spring break season.

“It’s nothing for us to have 40 arrests in a night,” he said. “I think we can definitely save some money in the future.”

Bedsole presented proposal to do just that to the council Monday. Bedsole said by reopening the city jail, it would save “time and resources.”

“I would propose the city buy the necessary materials to refurbish and bring the jail up to specification (by) using city employees, saving the costs associated with a contractor,” he said. “This can be done and meet the requirements as prescribed by the state. There is no easy remedy, but it is obvious that something has to give as far as housing inmates.

“I’ve explained to our officers and to the county communications center that (the FPD) will no longer respond to calls out in the county for the sheriff’s department unless a person’s life is in imminent danger,” he said. “If we can’t get inmates booked into the jail, I feel we don’t need to answer calls for the county.”