Sometimes the best ideas are so brilliant that our only response is “What’s the catch?”
That’s the feeling we have after hearing the plan proposed by Sheriff Greg Hagwood and local California Highway Patrol Commander Lt. Joe Edwards. The county’s two top law-enforcement officers want to combine the local sheriff’s office, jail and California Highway Patrol under one roof.
They envision a 10- to 15-acre campus somewhere in the greater Quincy area along the Highway 70 corridor. The Board of Supervisors was so impressed with the idea that members sent a letter to the governor last week.
Let’s hope the governor feels the same way about the no-brainer idea. He said he wants to consolidate government efforts whenever possible. Here’s the perfect chance to make it happen.
The sheriff and CHP commander separately mulled the idea of a joint facility for months. About two months ago, Edwards reached out to Hagwood. The sheriff called it one of those “Ah-hah!” moments.
This is not a far-fetched concept. On the contrary, it makes perfect sense.
There are dozens of logistical reasons why the plan is perfect. At the very least, it would save a ton of money. The CHP, which is currently dispatched out of Susanville, could have a dispatch center here. Having the two law-enforcement agencies under one roof would facilitate a free flow of ideas and information. The county would receive better service and, ultimately, we would all be safer.
But Hagwood and Edwards envision even more. The sheriff said the new facility could be used as a training center for officers from around the region. Officers would be here for weeks at a time, staying in our motels and eating at our restaurants.
There is absolutely no doubt our law-enforcement infrastructure needs to be upgraded.
The sheriff’s office in East Quincy is old. The jail next door is even older. For 20 years Plumas County grand juries have said the jail is in such bad shape that it’s dangerous — dangerous for the inmates; dangerous for the corrections officers; dangerous for visitors. Throw in dozens of new inmates from AB 109 and it’s way too small as well.
The tiny CHP office in Quincy isn’t much better. The state recognized the local CHP dilemma years ago and placed our area near the top of the list for a new office.
The sheriff and CHP have glaring individual needs. Hagwood and Edwards said they have a better chance of fixing their problems by working together.
Hagwood realizes his department can’t just piggyback on the state-funded CHP on this deal. Plumas County would be expected to pay its share. “We would definitely have to have some skin in the game,” he said.
Coming up with the cash has been an ongoing obstacle for the county. The sheriff has offered several plans for a new jail over the years, but hasn’t had the money to back them up. A year ago, the county couldn’t come up with a $1 million matching check for a chance to win a $20 million state grant for a jail.
The joint proposal by the sheriff and CHP commander is refreshing on another level. For years, the CHP has been viewed as being too aggressive in Plumas County. But that perception has changed. The credit goes to Edwards and his squad, who are visibly making an effort to have a kinder, gentler presence in our rural community. They are a totally different crew than they were even two years ago.
Hagwood and Edwards are cut from the same mold. The sheriff said he knew that the moment they met last year.
“Joe and I have a wonderful working relationship. And I mean that, very sincerely,” Hagwood said. “We have comparable backgrounds and the same kind of mindset in the way we deliver services.”
If Hagwood and Edwards can deliver on this plan, they will both deserve credit for being visionaries.