New Police Station Does Justice to Community's Expectations

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Infrastructure

Tom Finan, chair of the police station building committee, made it official at Saturday's open house.  BARRY A. DONAHUE PHOTO

ORLEANS Any Cape Codder who drops anchor in the reception area of the new Orleans police station will feel right at home.

There's a center area that resembles a dock, with wooden seats that might serve elsewhere as pews. The dispatch and records windows are identified by driftwood signs. “It was the chief's idea, to keep it looking kind of Cape Coddish,” Lt. Kevin Higgins said.

It's a calming area in which to begin a tour of the new $11 million facility, which Higgins estimates 350 to 400 people did during Saturday's open house and ribbon cutting (that's based on consumption of 375 hot dogs).

On Monday, Higgins showed a reporter around the station, moving from the lobby into the training room that can serve also as an emergency operations center. When completed, a media wall will allow display of maps and other data, which can be shared with officers in the field. “We can bring everyone in here and not be a distraction to anyone else,” the lieutenant said of the room, which has a separate entrance.

Back in the station proper, on the other side of the lobby is the dispatch room with its two identical stations hosting monitors for the building's 55 cameras and for data screens. Personnel here no longer have to be relieved to get some relief; they have their own bathroom and small kitchenette.

Back in the hallway is a consultation room, simply furnished, for meeting privately with someone with a concern. Nearby, there's a “soft” interview room with couches and carpet. Along the way, Higgins pointed out some of the advanced mechanical systems, including a 200 kilowatt generator that kept the station running during this winter's three-day power outage in town. There are three on-demand boilers that switch on and off in rotation to even out their use.

Perhaps the largest, and certainly the tallest, space in the new station is the sally port. “We never had one,” Higgins said. “We used the garage. There were rakes and bicycles,” not the most secure space in which to “welcome” those detained. A small laundry room off the main space allows officers to wash uniforms that have been soiled by blood or other substances.

From the sally port, detainees are brought into a processing room that looks pretty bleak. There is a low bench divided into several seating areas by rails that include loops for handcuffs. It's here that an assessment is made regarding the arrivals' security requirements. From there, they are photographed, fingerprinted, and tested for alcohol levels, and assigned one of several cells. “The longest we'll hold someone is over a long weekend,” said Higgins, adding that the sheriff's department takes over after that. Something new, a detainee interview room, can be used by bail bondsmen and attorneys.

The new station has a weapons cleaning room (that used to be done in the old station's garage) that leads to the armory, and an evidence processing and storage area. Once officers place materials in a locker, they cannot open it again; it can be opened only from the other side, by a detective charged with that responsibility.

Officers coming on or off duty enter through the rear of the building and pass men's and women's locker rooms on their way to the roll call room. A fitness room and kitchen are nearby.

An office is dedicated to use by the department's four patrol sergeants, with room for a fifth if one is ever needed. That's in keeping with the philosophy behind the building: meet today's needs and ensure there will be options for meeting future needs.

After a walk down the administrative corridor past offices for the chief, deputy chief, and himself, Higgins returned to the lobby and pointed out another new space: a permit processing room for gun permits that also has fingerprinting equipment used by, for example, individuals renewing Securities and Exchange Commission licenses.

It would be interesting to return 20 years hence to see what new services are being offered in that room and others in Orleans's new – for now – police station.