Baldwin City police chief says city has outgrown current station
The Baldwin City Police Department has outgrown its current headquarters while modern police procedures have made the space obsolete, Baldwin Police Chief Greg Neis says.
The Baldwin City Council shares that view and included a new police station on a capital improvement list it approved this month of projects for 2015-2018. Councilman Ken Wagner said a new facility was the top priority council members identified during a retreat at the beginning of deliberations on the list.
The CIP has the new police station slotted for 2016 at a cost of $2.1 million. Mayor Marilyn Pearse, however, said the CIP was a working document and that projects could be removed or added as the city's needs changed. She also noted the dollar figure of all CIP projects were “placeholders” and not “relevant.”
Without commenting on the cost of its replacement, Neis said, the 1,500-square-foot former floral shop at 811 High St. no longer met the city's needs. The station lacks many things, but the most pressing are the twin problems of privacy and security, he said.
“The main problem with the facility is the openness,” he said. “You can come in the front door and you have access to everything.”
Security is obviously a big concern at any law enforcement headquarters, and Neis said the Baldwin City station was sorely lacking in that area. The front entry provides any visitor with unrestricted access to the front receptionist and two offices.
The office off the entry to the left is without a door and the one to the right lacks a secure one, Neis said. That’s a problem because the state requires computers with sensitive shared information to be locked up during times when no one is present.
The openness doesn’t lend itself to the confidential conversations that occur in police stations either, Neis said. It’s worse when two conflicting parties are brought in for interviews following an incident.
Neis said interviews in such situations ideally would be done as soon as the parties were brought to the station in separated secure rooms equipped with audio-visual recording equipment and not in a space where the quarrelling individuals can continue their verbal sparring.
“We run into that all the time,” the chief said. “The sergeant’s office is the only one with audio-visual equipment where we can record interviews.”
The department needs three secure rooms where interviews can be taped to avoid confrontational situations and to present better evidence to the district attorney, Neis said.
“Juries nowadays want everything on video. They don’t trust what the officer writes down,” he said.
Although greater security and privacy are the greatest needs, there are other shortcomings, including serious structural problems to its roof and south wall, Neis said.
The department with nine full-time officers and four part-timers has simply outgrown the station’s 1,500-square-foot space, Neis said. There’s only one closet for storage and no conference room or space to conduct training, he said.
The station has only one restroom for the department with two female officers and receptionist, and there are no lockers or showers, Neis said.
“When we’ve had officers get dirty on duty, we’ve had to send them home to clean up and change,” he said. “The town as outgrown this facility. If it were just one thing, we could work around it. But it goes beyond that.”
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