Rowe: Shut down city jail, save money
by Daniel Gaddy
Apr 24, 2012 | 4576 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chief Connie Cooner Rowe
Chief Connie Cooner Rowe
Jasper Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe told the city council on Monday that closing the department’s jail would likely save the city money.

During a city council work session Monday afternoon, Rowe said that having the Walker County Jail take charge of the Jasper Police Department’s inmates would immediately be budget-neutral. However, she believes the change would ultimately save the city a significant amount.

If the move isn’t made, Rowe said her department will soon have to spend $30,000 to $50,000 to repair air-conditioning units in the city jail.

She said she hates to pump so much money into the facility if transferring the inmates is a possibility.

Another major benefit to the move, Rowe said, would be the funds saved by dropping the liability insurance required to operate a jail.

Rowe added that officials with the Walker County Jail have an open pod with available beds.

“They want us — they want the business,” she said.

Also during Monday’s work session, Rowe asked council members to consider paying for take-home vehicles for members of the JPD’s Critical Incident Response Team.

The CIRT unit consists of 10 officers certified as tactical operators. The group is meant to respond to emergencies ranging from hostage crises to natural disasters.

Rowe said that, if the council approves the measure, each CIRT member will have a vehicle that he will keep loaded with all the gear needed to respond to an emergency. She said that having the cruisers at their homes would reduce the unit’s response time by as much as an hour.

Rowe also said that, if a natural disaster like a tornado struck police headquarters, the department would still have 10 usable vehicles.

Another benefit of take-home vehicles, she said, is that the cruisers serve as a crime deterrent in each CIRT member’s neighborhood.

Police department officials plan to pay for much of the costs of the CIRT cruisers from selling several of the department’s unneeded vehicles. However, there will be the added expenses of gas and insurance.

While discussing the costs of the project, city attorney Russ Robertson pointed out that the expense needs to be viewed as an investment in the safety of residents.

“This is our allocation of resources, not an employee benefit,” he said.

Rowe said the CIRT officers are willing to work with city financial officers in any way, including paying for repairs or gas costs of the vehicles. She added that the members of the unit are highly trained, responsible officers who can be trusted not to abuse the privilege.

“I really don’t think they’re going to be zooming around picking up chicks,” she said.

As is typically the case, no vote was taken during the work session and both requests by Rowe will have to be placed on the agenda for the city council’s next scheduled meeting.