|L to R: Corrections Director Dan Keen; Palmer Police Chief Larry Palmer;|
Magisterial District judge Jim Narlesky; and Magisterial District Judge Richard Yetter.
At a January 13 news conference attended by enough police brass to form a marching band, Brown announced changes to the central booking system that will get police officers back on the street within 30 minutes. Essentially, jail staff will assume responsibility for inmates at an earlier stage. According to Corrections Director Dan Keen, this is a revenue neutral change that will cause no increase in jail manpower or staff.
The nuts and bolts of this new approach were screwed together by Keen, Sheriff David Dalrymple, Easton Police Chief carl Scalzo and Palmer Police Chief Larry Palmer.
Though Palmer supervises one of Northampton County's larger police departments, he conservatively estimates that his officers are tied up 15-20 hours a month at central booking. This creates what he calls "gaps in police coverage."
President Judge Stephen Baratta called this solution "good government at the local level," and was pleased at the amount of cooperation between different governments and police departments. In his view this streamlining addresses complaints about public safety,reduces stress on magisterial District Judges and ended up costing the County nothing. "I give the administration a lot of credit," he announced, adding that he and brown have a "good working relationship."
Magisterial District Judge Jim Narlesky assured everyone that defendants will still have a prompt preliminary arraignment. But how will he know what bail to set? That question was answered by magisterial District Judge Richard Yetter, who has been working as night judge for the past week.
He stated officers fill out a short background on each person brought in, including prior convictions and other factors to be considered in determining bail. If there is a pressing issue, he will contact pretrial services or the arresting officer.
Northampton County has used central booking since 2007. In a brief tour of the facility, it appears there are two holding cells and a separate room where a defendant can speak to the magisterial District Judge.
What if it gets crowded?
"We've got plenty of room next door," said Deputy Warden David Penchishen, as he was searched before being admitted to central booking.
He stated everyone is searched.
By the way, it's hard as hell to get in there, although Judge Dally told me later in the day that he could get me in there real fast.
You ring some buzzer and then wait 20-30 years for the gate to open. I stood outside with another reporter and we both froze our asses off as we waited.
I'm pretty sure I heard the bastards inside, laughing at us.
Every now and then, it sounded as though the gate was about to open, but then there'd be nothing. ... Except what I'm sure was laughter.
Thankfully, it was a lot easier to leave.
But not for Penchishen. He was on his way to another entrance, where he'd be searched again. "I'm setting an example," he told me.
I slipped my dip into his back pocket.
* Rudy Miller's account indicates there were 4,000 bookings in 2014, which is also what is claimed in a news release. Executive Brown's statement indicates there are 2,000 bookings per year. According to Administration sources, the 4,000 figure includes walk-ins. Brown's figure is limited to those who are brought in by police and hence is more accurate in this context.