The Austin Police Department has proposed plans for a new booking facility near Cameron Road that could save the city money and simplify the current booking process.
Brian Manley, Austin Police assistant chief, said citizens arrested in North Austin for minor offenses would go to the center for booking and processing, also known as magistration, and then either post bail or go to jail. Manley said serious offenders would still go to the Travis County Jail for long-term holding.
“[Magistration] requires that a person arrested by a police officer is brought before a judge for the initial hearing, and it has to be done without delay,” Manley said. “In other words, within 48 hours, you have to either magistrate or release somebody, [so] this is an opportunity for a model that will free up officers’ time.”
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo initially proposed the new booking center at a meeting of the Austin City Council on Aug. 28. At the meeting, Acevedo said his officers spend an average of 58 minutes booking suspects at the Travis County Jail, and APD could eventually achieve a collective gain of 50,000 patrol hours per year by running its own magistration facility.
Acevedo said APD plans to renovate an existing building owned by the city for the new center. According to APD’s estimates, after 11 years of running the center, the city would save about $15 million, helping reduce the amount the city pays for officer overtime and to use the jail.
The facility is expected to cost $5.6 million and take 12-18 months to build. Members of the City Council raised concerns about where funding for the center would come from and whether the facility would fulfill the benefits proposed by APD.
UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said UTPD will follow its usual protocol when students are arrested. The closest booking facility to the University is currently at Travis County Jail.
“We will continue to conduct business as usual unless Travis County requests we do something different,” Posey said.
Manley said the new booking center would help increase efficiency and allow more officers to spend time on patrol.
“We believe that we will see some budget savings, budgetary savings to the taxpayer and officer morale will be greatly increased,” Manley said. “The sooner that we can book somebody, get them magistrated and book them into a location, the sooner we can get our officers back to responding to the calls for service from people of the city of Austin.”
According to Manley, since APD pays around $6 million per year to use the Travis County Jail, the new facility would help cut down on costs.
Manley said the city is still exploring sources of funding for the center, although Council Member Mike Martinez suggested using interest from bond sales as one potential source of funding.
APD plans to collect public input and further study the plan before presenting it to the City Council for a final vote, Manley said.