Construction of new Centerville Police Department finishes early

bpurser@macon.comDecember 22, 2013 

CENTERVILLE -- Construction of the city’s new police department finished about a month ahead of the Dec. 27 target completion date.

All that’s needed before police officers can move into their new digs is the furniture, which is expected to arrive in mid-to-late January.

“It means a lot to us at the police department because we have a building now that is secure and safe for staff members,” Centerville Police Chief Sid Andrews said. “It’s also secure and safe for people that we have in custody.

“We also have a building that we can now share with our community such as a citizens police academy and sharing our training room with other agencies.”

The $2.1 million project, which included the $350,000 renovation of the former library into Centerville Municipal Court, was financed by the city.

Revenue from a special purpose local option sales tax is earmarked to pay off the financing.

Houston County residents voted to extend a 2006 penny tax in 2012 for additional projects that included the new police station and city court. The project remained within budget.

Perry-based Parrish Construction Group constructed the building, which was designed by architect David Selby of Macon-based MBS Architects. An official ribbon-cutting and open house are expected in the new year.

Recently, Andrews and Assistant Chief Garrett Cooley took The Telegraph for a sneak peek of the 4,200-square-foot facility. Here are some of the highlights:

The lobby

The front doors open into a lobby where the walls are bulletproof, and staff members are behind 1.5-inch thick ballistic glass.

“Anybody who comes in here with any motive to cause harm to us using firearms, my staff will be safe,” Andrews said.

One of many surveillance cameras located throughout the facility can be seen in the lobby. Only officers and other staff members have access to the rest of the building.

Administrative offices

On the other side of the glass where the clerks are and up on the ceiling is a light that will flash red if the clerk at municipal court needs help. The light is triggered by a panic button. Two similar lights are located in the chief and assistant chief’s offices.

The administrative offices also include a conference room for staff meetings as well as offices to take police reports from residents who walk into the station.

In the detective’s division, there’s a room for their desks as well as video equipment. Interviews with suspects and victims may be recorded in the adjacent interview room. The police department does not have a one-sided viewing window.

“A viewing window has been found to be a distraction to people that we’re interviewing,” Andrews said. “From watching TV and movies, people that are being interviewed for crimes and are suspects, they know that it’s that window; they’re being looked at.

“So their attention seems to be diverted to that window instead of to the investigator. That’s why a lot of police departments now are going to the system we have where there’s not a viewing window,” he said.

Evidence vault

“This is my pride and joy,” Andrews said.

The vault is where evidence is stored and processed. Only the city’s two police detectives, who also serve as the evidence custodians, have access to the vault.

“Myself being the chief, I don’t have any access to this room unless I’m accompanied by one of them,” Andrews said.

Patrol officers can place evidence into the vault from the patrol division side, but evidence can only be taken out by detectives.

“It’s a one way in and one way out system,” Andrews said.

Unique to the evidence vault is a refrigeration unit that keeps urine and blood samples cool in GBI kits to be transported to a GBI crime lab for testing, Andrews said.

Patrol division

There are six officer work stations in which officers share a cubicle. But since the officers work different shifts, officers assigned to the same cubicle are not using it at the same time.

There’s also an administrative office shared by the two patrol commanders.

In this area is a small gym, a kitchen and separate locker rooms with showers for men and women.

There’s also a large conference room in which Andrews plans to hold a citizens police academy and offer the room to other law enforcement agencies for training purposes.

The sally port

A sally port is a secured entrance and exit in which those in custody are taken in and out of the police department. The back of the police department is fenced in with coded entrances for officers and automatic exits for patrol cars. Those in custody are taken into the jail through the sally port.

The sally port has high-speed, roll-up doors that are opened by a punch code. The doors automatically close in 15 seconds. Once the doors close behind the patrol car, the officer gets out and removes and locks up his or her gun. Then the suspect is taken out of the patrol car.

“When the officer removes a suspect, he’s secured in here,” Andrews said. “There’s no firearms available, so we have a fairly safe environment.”

There’s also an emergency shower station in the sally port.

If a suspect is pepper-sprayed or a staff member comes into contact with chemicals, the person may be showered down here.

Two jail cells are to the right of the sally port upon entering the police department. Fingerprinting and toxicology tests take place across the hall in the booking room. Mug shots are also taken here.

Bond room

When a person posts bond, there’s a room with its own entrance and exit. A bondsman can be buzzed into the room, and once bond is posted, the bondsman and suspect can leave through that door.

“It keeps the inmate from coming through our facility,” Andrews said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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