Smyrna’s $4 million police HQ expected to open in August

SMYRNA — If the current schedule holds, an enlarged and updated Smyrna Police Department building will be open by early to mid-August, authorities said this week.

At a cost of roughly $4 million, 26,000 square feet will be added to the current 4,900 square feet of space that police say is inadequate to properly maintain security, communication and storage required for daily law enforcement operations.

The exterior of the new addition to the Smyrna Police Department station. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

The exterior of the new addition to the Smyrna Police Department station. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“We’re pushing forward to make things better in all ways possible, including possessing the most current technology and best safety measures, along with the equipment needed to (work professionally and efficiently),” Police Chief Norman Wood said.

The current building at 325 W. Glenwood Ave. was built in 1988 when Smyrna employed 12 officers to serve a population of roughly 3,500; now, there are 22 officers and a population of approximately 11,000.

“This building is struggling to hold everything,” Chief Wood said.

Fearn Clendaniel Architects of Wilmington designed the new building plan, with Smyrna’s i3a construction and management firm serving as the general contractor. Chief Wood said he’s pleased to watch the process and progress each day.

“It’s at the point now that you can walk through and follow the pattern of the hallways,” he said.

According to the Smyrna Police Department, among the features of its new building under construction are: * Dispatch/communications will have large enough area to have multiple dispatchers working as needed and room for future growth. * Patrol room will have room for numerous officers to be working simultaneously and includes offices for patrol sergeants.  * Armory will be in the new building and securely and safely store all firearms and ammunition away from access from any unauthorized personnel. * Uniform storage closet, SWAT storage closet. Mens/Womens locker rooms and bathrooms large enough for future growth of the department.  * Training room for departmental training and potentially fitness room for officers and civilian employees. * Separate IT/server room to handle 21st century equipment, policing is technology based and driven with the addition of security cameras, in car cameras, now body cameras, all that information must be sent and stored somewhere.

According to the Smyrna Police Department, among the features of its new building under construction are:
* Dispatch/communications will have large enough area to have multiple dispatchers working as needed and room for future growth.
* Patrol room will have room for numerous officers to be working simultaneously and includes offices for patrol sergeants.
* Armory will be in the new building and securely and safely store all firearms and ammunition away from access from any unauthorized personnel.
* Uniform storage closet, SWAT storage closet.
Mens/Womens locker rooms and bathrooms large enough for future growth of the department.
* Training room for departmental training and potentially fitness room for officers and civilian employees.
* Separate IT/server room to handle 21st century equipment, policing is technology based and driven with the addition of security cameras, in car cameras, now body cameras, all that information must be sent and stored somewhere.

The expanded police quarters will include key card access and secured doors throughout the building designed to increase safety related to holding prisoners and suspects. No longer will an interview room be just a few feet from an administrative assistant’s office, among other improvements.

Civilian employees will work in a secured area at all times, with prisoners and detained persons having no possible access, police said.

A sallyport parking area in the back of the station will allow transport of detainees and prisoners in a secured area designed to eliminate escape opportunities, police said.

The plan is to enlarge the current conference room now used for storage and Citizens Auxiliary Patrol duties, moving those needs into a new part of the building.

The new building still has open space with no committed use at this point, which police said will lend itself to future options.

A new community room with public access for group meetings and functions is planned, along with use for police staff meetings and training seminars.

The office of records will be fronted by a public access window for those seeking crime reports, accident reports and any other information requested, police said.
Cramped and packed

A second phase to remodel the current police station will take three months, Chief Wood said.

At times, detectives moved to a city public works building due to spacing, hampering communication with the rest of the force, authorities said. According to Chief Wood, the current structure was designed more akin to a law office than a police department.

Current male and female locker rooms are also used as storage areas, and three prisoner holding cells are not separated by sight and sound, police said, raising multiple possible issues for officers handling multiple prisoners simultaneously.

Also, other agencies regularly bring in detainees during arrests and processing, using an intoxilyser, video phone arraignments through JP Court, and holding cells, adding to the foot traffic.

The department’s IT server is now in a non-secure area that was formerly a small restroom.

Said spokesman, Cpl. Brandon Dunning, “we are storing supplies, files, equipment in every corner of the current building including the women’s bathroom and conference room.”

Also, a patrol room shared by 14 officers and outside agencies has four computers there; Cpl. Dunning described the evidence room as “overflowing” and listed items ranging from weapons, narcotics, case files, and DNA kits, packed inside.

An interview room is also used to hold prisoners, police said; officers uniforms and equipment is stored in a garage.

“Weapons storage is currently a large standing floor safe which is in our patrol room and too small for our current needs,” Cpl. Dunning said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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