"This is one of the things the public wanted when they voted to pass the half cent sales tax. The City Council is merely following through with what the public said was a priority and communicated that they wanted the dollars spent on," said Brown who is hopeful the project reflects that and receives voter approval in November.
"There are a number of things this new facility will offer that are vital for us to do a good job. For one, the ability to bring victims and witnesses into a secure and private environment, where they won't be within sight of each other. No way to avoid it currently," said Brown. The new facility would offer interview rooms on each side of the police department's portion of the building, not only away from each other but also accessible via different entrances.
"Having interview rooms to gather information will be a real blessing. If someone comes in today to file a report they have to do it in the public waiting area or in the middle of the office area. No privacy either way and typically disruptive of any other work that is going on," said Brown. Brown went on to explain that the problems were compounded when more than one officer was trying to conduct an interview or gather a report at the same time.
Another major issue the proposed facility would resolve is having a dispatch center that is large enough to accommodate the equipment the department uses. Radio and 911 equipment also will be stored in a room designed to hold it, not in a storage closet as it is today. "Cleanliness and temperature is an issue with storage of our equipment right now and that's expensive stuff," said Brown, who believes the current situation is having a negative impact on the life of some of the department's most expensive equipment.
Brown is very pleased with the proposed layout for the dispatch center. "It will allow us to have our 911 dispatchers in a controlled environment. Right now everyone walking down the hall or coming in the front door disrupts the dispatchers' functions. It is very difficult if you're trying to dispatch an emergency and you have a lot of background noise going on around you. This new building would put our dispatchers in an environment that will allow them to do the good job they are trying to do," he said.
"When you interview someone who has been traumatized by a sexual assault, a standard interrogation room is not the setting they want to be in. You want them in a much more comfortable, non-threatening environment. Similarly, with children, you want them in a comfortable setting," said Brown when describing the role the new facilities juvenile-sexual assault interview room would play.
The new floor plan has approximately 10,000 square feet assigned to the police department, roughly double the existing space, and offers a reception window for the police department's administrative assistant in the shared lobby. Brown is confident the new plan will not only eliminate the disruption of the dispatchers but also be much more inviting and increase the service level to the public.
The shared lobby also will have public restrooms. Currently the only bathroom in the police department, for staff or the public, is in the secure and time-consuming-to-access jail area.
In addition to the lobby restrooms, the new facility would have a bathroom just off the dispatch center, one in the main hallway of the police department as well as shower equipped men and women's lockers.
"We have no locker room now, only the bathroom in the jail. The new locker room is exciting because it allows our guys to utilize the fire department's fitness room and not have to go home to shower. The same is true if an officer simply gets dirty on the job; he has to be sent home to change. We have no locker space currently," said Brown.
The police department's evidence is being stored in three different buildings right now and the proposed facility will allow the department to bring all of it under one roof. Brown said the new plan will offer a much more structured environment that will make processing and packaging evidence, the way the law requires it to be done, much easier to accomplish. The new layout also includes a sally port area that will allow officers to bring in evidence, or prisoners, indoors, increasing both security and privacy.
Vehicle parking for squad cars will be covered, eliminating sun and other weather related damage to the vehicles. "We have roughly $10,000 worth of electrical equipment in these cars. Those are items that don't like heat; having them in direct sun shortens their life span," said Brown.
"This could be the first time we have ever had a facility that is designed for police function. It would allow us to perform our duties in the way they need to be done. Every facet of this building allows us to do a better job. It is, really, a unique opportunity to get the facility we need without a new tax and the first time I have seen that in my lifetime. We may not see it again," said Brown.
The Municipal Facilities Election will be Nov. 2, 2010.