Chief pursues new city police station

Published 1:36 pm Wednesday, April 8, 2009

By Staff
Changes in technology and standards forcing city to act, say officials
Contributing Editor
Outdated equipment, cramped quarters, inadequate training facilities and overall aging are just several of the problems with Washington’s existing police station, said the city’s top cop.
Mick Reed, chief of the Washington Police Department, says a new police station is not a luxury but a necessity for the city. The new facility needs to be built so the department will meet minimum regulatory standards for police stations, he said.
The availability of federal stimulus money could turn Reed’s solicitation for a new police station into reality. The city is going after at least $4.2 million in stimulus funds for a new police station as part of its effort to obtain nearly $25 million through the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Last month, the City Council authorized City Manager James C. Smith to negotiate a contract with Architects Design Group to develop plans for a new police station. If that contract is approved by both parties soon, design work on the new station could begin by the end of the month, Smith said Tuesday.
Later, as he acknowledged the recession, Reed said, “It’s a question of finding the money. … I realize it is a difficult time to do a project like this.”
With or without stimulus money, a new station is probably a must-have item within five years, sooner, if possible, Smith said.
Although the city is aggressively pursing stimulus money for the new station, there are other funding sources such as the Rural Development branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Smith said. The city could probably obtain a 40-year low-interest loan from USDA to pay for a new police station. USDA provided such a loan to build the city’s second fire station.
Zero-interest loans, grants or a combination of those funding types are being sought by the city to pay for a variety of projects, said Smith, who attended a conference on stimulus funding held in Greenville on Tuesday.
Reed said a new police station is needed to provide the community better access to the department and services it provides.
The existing facility doesn’t provide that haven because it’s too small, doesn’t have a large enough room where community members and police can gather to discuss community issues and lacks security features such as guarded access to sensitive criminal information.
Reed contends a new station is also needed, in part, because of technological changes in recent years and legislative mandates.
For example, a new state law requires the department to make either an audio recording or videotape recording of interviews with certain suspects. A bill under consideration in the state House makes videotapes of those interviews mandatory, removing the option of just an audio recording, he noted.
The existing facility was not built with such requirements in mind.
Some department computer equipment is stored in a closet that must be air-conditioned to protect the equipment, Reed said. Also, the existing facility does not have the space nor equipment to online-train the department’s 42 sworn officers, he said.
In addition, the existing police station doesn’t have enough parking for all of the department’s police cars. Most of them are parked about a mile away at the city’s complex off Plymouth Street.
Cutline for corresponding photo: Washington Police Chief Mitchell Reed stands in the Washington Police Department processing room officers use to write reports and perform finger printing. At one time, the space was used as a jail holding cell. (WDN Photo/Paul Dunn)