A safer way to book ’em in Southborough

Jail cells at the Southborough Police Station
Jail cells at the Southborough Police Station

A few weeks ago I got a first-hand look at the Southborough Police Department’s new booking room. Fortunately, it was from the right side of the jail cell, not the wrong side.

At town meeting in 2008, voters approved $21,000 to renovate the old booking room, which the police department said was cramped and unsafe for both officers and prisoners.

“The most dangerous part of booking a prisoner is in the first five minutes,” Interim Chief Jane Moran told me. “Bringing them in from the cruiser to the booking area, if there’s going to be a fight, that’s when it’s going to happen.”

The old booking room was small, and all the equipment was out in the open, making it hazardous during an altercation.

The new booking room is twice the size with room for a computer, breathalyzer, fingerprint system, and other equipment, all out of reach of prisoners. And the additional room means there’s more physical separation between officers and prisoners.

Booking room, Southborough Police Station
Officers and their gear are separated from prisoners by a half wall

Booking room, Southborough Police Station
Interim Chief Jane Moran shows how a breathalyzer test is administered to prisoners

There’s also ample room for disease control products like sanitary wipes, bandages, and needle disposal containers, all of which police departments are required to have on hand.

Booking room, Southborough Police Station
OSHA-mandated health and safety supplies

The old booking room was demolished in January of this year. During the rough construction, prisoners were taken to Westborough for booking. The finishing touches to the room were put in place earlier this month.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why are we spending money renovating the old police station when we’re looking for a new one?

Moran said all the furniture and equipment can be taken out and transferred to a new building when one becomes available. “In the meantime,” she said, “We have to be able to function in a safe manner.”

Moran said one of the late Chief William Webber’s “last wishes” was to renovate the booking room. “The safety of his officers was his primary concern.”

So, just how often is the booking room at the police station used? Take your guess in the latest My Southborough poll (in the sidebar to the right), and I’ll reveal the results later this week.

For more photos of the new booking room, check out the My Southborough photostream.

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