Police Commissioner Tom Rice with the Port Washington Police District (PWPD) has created a committee to form plans to construct a new building for the police department. The PWPD has occupied the current building, which was previously a school, since 1959 and has been the central location for the police district since then. Throughout the years, the Port Washington community has grown significantly, which has caused the PWPD to need additional police officers and staff. Originally, the building housed approximately 35 people, but now there are more than 100 people working out of the small building.
Due to the increase in staff, conditions in the building have become severely cramped because there is just not enough space to hold the number of employees and equipment they need for smooth day to day operations.
The PWPD is making the best of the current conditions, but many improvements need to be made to not only ensure the safety of the officers and staff but also the potential prisoners and community members who may visit the building.
The Port Washington News took a tour of the police station to get a first-hand look at the issues that the PWPD is facing with the lack of space. Upon entering the building, one wouldn’t notice any immediate problems, the lobby is well kept, clean and free of clutter.
But behind closed doors, the real concerns are obvious. The hallways are extremely narrow, forcing people to have to walk single file down the hallway, during a busy day the officers and staff are nearly tripping over each other trying to get from one place to another in a hurry. There is not dedicated room to house all the records, because the building is not equipped with a room large enough to store everything. Boxes are scattered from floor to ceiling in many rooms throughout the building. This makes it difficult for police personnel to find the proper records when necessary. Office space is also an issue, currently the commissioners do not each have their own office. Most of the officers and staff in the building are sharing small office spaces not equipped to handle two people, let alone five. The lack of closet space also poses a problem. Clothing and bags are lined up along the walls of the men’s locker room because the lockers are not big enough to hold all of the necessities. The women’s locker room is no bigger than a closet and has no real area for changing clothing.
Another big concern is the safety and security issues in the building. Currently, the prison intake area is located in the basement of the building. When a prisoner is being held for processing, the officer must escort the person through the building, down the narrow hallway and then down a long flight of stairs. If someone becomes combative, this puts the officer and the prisoner at risk of falling down and injuring themselves. There is no bathroom for the public to use, instead an officer must escort the civilian to a bathroom located inside the private area of the building.
“We don’t have public restrooms, anybody from the street that comes in and asks to use the bathroom comes into a secured area,” Rice said. “There is no building in the state of New York that doesn’t have a public bathroom. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but there is a chance that the wrong person could enter that facility.”
Along with the hazards, the police district must comply with rules and codes set by the New York State Department of Corrections law, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Regular maintenance on the building has been done but there have been significant problems with the sewage lines, plumbing and electrical, as well as flooding throughout the basement. The district has spent a large sum of money remediating these issues, but more problems continue to arise.
According to Rice, the best solution would be to demolish the existing building and replace it with a larger scale building, which would be able to adequately handle the volume of officers and staff and would ensure that safety remains the number one priority.
Constructing a new building would also help to remediate the parking concern on the property. Currently, there are about four parking spaces and one handicap space for the public. If more than four cars visit the lot, they need to turn around and park elsewhere on a nearby side street or along the busy roadway. Constructing a new building would create a safer parking area for community members and the staff.
The PWPD feels it would be better to construct a new building on the property, which they own, rather than find a new location within the area. Currently, the PWPD has hired an architect to construct a site-plan and plans are in-concept.
“I honestly feel this is a safety issue,” Rice said. “I worry about my personnel in this building. I need to take care of what is going on here. It’s a mess.”