Police get nod to hold juveniles

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 1, 2001

Managing Editor

Jan. 31, 2001 10 PM

Juveniles arrested within the city of Troy and Pike County may now be housed locally, something that Troy police and city officials are hoping will result in keeping more officers on the streets and avoiding costly trips to cities all over South Alabama.

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The Troy Police Department received temporary approval from the Alabama Department of Youth Services to hold up to two juveniles in specially designated areas within the Troy Jail for short periods of time.

Chief Anthony Everage sees the certification as the fruit of four years of labor that will keep his officers in Troy.

"This is something that our Mayor and City Council had the wisdom to encourage us to do four years ago when we were looking at reworking the structure of our building," Everage said. "In the past, we have had to ship any juveniles under 18 to Dothan, Opelika or Bay Minette to facilities certified to accept juveniles. This meant our officers were taken away from their duties, often paid overtime, and put on the roads with our cars, causing wear and tear on the vehicles and bringing the safety risks that come with travel."

State law mandates that all facilities that will house juveniles – even for periods of time as short as 72 hours – pass certain standards. As Everage learned, those standards can be pretty stict.

"It was a challenging process that did, at times, become somewhat frustrating," he said. "What got us to where we are now is persistence. We just worked at it and worked at it until it happened."

The idea was initiated when discussion about rebuilding the police department’s headquarters. According to Everage, transporting juveniles to and from facilities as far away as Bay Minette was a problem that was targeted years ago.

"We wanted a place locally to house juveniles as they awaited their court hearings," Everage said. "They are required to have these hearings within 72 hours of incarceration, and we saw a lot of times when we would have one late in the afternoon and be facing a court date the following morning. In the meantime, we had no place to put them."

That meant traveling to and from other cities to drop off the juveniles and making trips back to pick them up.

"And this was often done on overtime," Everage said. "We don’t have enough officers on each shift to be able to allow two to make a transport like this, and it’s always better to send two. So we saw a lot of overtime on this issue."

After getting the nod from the mayor and council, Everage said the department has worked with the Department of Youth Services to make sure things were being done properly.

"We had to go through a lot of different issues to make this work, and that’s evident by the time it took us to get this done."

Now, the police department has permission from the state to hold up to two juveniles in custody in the special cells for up to 72 hours.

"This is all we wanted," Everage said. "We don’t want to become a prison for youngsters. We just want a place to detain juveniles until we can get them to court. This is what we needed."

The license is a temporary one, giving the department another six months to earn a permanent license, but officials aren’t terribly concerned with being able to meet the requirements of the next stage.

"The first part is the toughest," Everage said. "We have done most of the work now. We just need to fine tune things a little."