Picayune Police Department transitions to county jail

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Picayune Police Department no longer has a city jail and while the transition from a city jail to using the county jail has come with some hiccups, Assistant Chief Dustin Moeller believes the process is going smoothly.

The Picayune Police Department previously booked suspects into the jail at the department, located in downtown Picayune. As the defendant was booked into the city jail, jail staff searched the person and completed the booking process.

But the city entered an interlocal agreement in July to allow the county to house city inmates for a $20 daily rate per inmate, according to previous coverage. The cost includes food and housing. If inmates have to go to the hospital, those medical costs would be the city’s responsibility. The change is more cost effective, said Moeller.

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Since the transition to using the county jail, Picayune Police officers take suspects who are arrested from the scene to the county jail in Millard where jail staff book them in, said Moeller.

Like many small city jails, the Picayune city jail did not have medical staff on site, so if an inmate was sick or injured they needed to be transported to a hospital, said Moeller.

“That would take an officer off the streets, because an officer would have to transport them there,” he said.

An officer would also have to stay at the hospital with the person. The county jail has medical staff on site who can treat inmates for medical conditions and determine if they need medical attention at a hospital.

For people who are arrested, the change means that their first stop is Millard instead of Picayune and instead of bonding agents coming to the Picayune Police Department, they go to the county jail to bond people out.

The change has come with a few hiccups, said Moeller.

The department had to change the process it uses to notify the courts when someone is being arrested for a crime. Previously, jail staff notified the courts of individual offenses. Moeller said the method the department initially switched to caused some situations that made staff back up and rethink their plan. Since then, the department has worked with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department and court staff to find a more efficient way to get information from the arresting officer into the court system, said Moeller.

Switching from having a small city jail to using the county’s jail in Millard has been discussed for many years, said Moeller. The countywide dispatch consolidation finally makes it possible, he said.

“They were talking about this 20 plus years ago, so we’re excited to get to that point that we’re finally able to make it work,” said Moeller.

The countywide dispatch consolidation also includes a new records management system and a new jail management system. This means all three local law enforcement agencies, the Picayune Police Department, the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department and the Poplarville Police Department, will use the same records management system and jail management system. So, when information is entered during booking for city inmates at the county jail, the Picayune Police Department will also be able to access those records, said Moeller.

The new systems have not been implemented by the county or the city of Picayune yet, so in the meantime the police officers have to complete some duplicate paperwork, said Moeller.

Although the drive to Millard is farther, Moeller does not think officers are spending more time off the streets than before the transition.

“The drive is further, but what we’re seeing is they’re not spending more time off the streets than before,” said Moeller.

According to Moeller, while the jail is farther away, officers are spending less time at the county jail filling out paperwork than they were filling out paperwork at the city jail. At the county jail, officers are filling out a one sheet paper intake form before leaving the person in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department, he said.

“I would like to thank Sheriff Allison and his staff, particularly Captain Mataya, for their hard work and making this happen,” said Moeller. “They’ve worked with us from the beginning on this very closely. Our opinion is they’ve done a wonderful job. They’ve been ready and willing to help us anytime.”

Without the city jail, the police department will have additional space in its building. Additionally, dispatch and the Municipal Court are moving out of the Picayune Police Department to Chimney Square on Goodyear Boulevard. Department administration has not decided yet how the additional space will be utilized, Moeller said.