BRUNSWICK — A former town councilor and leading opponent of the plan for a new police station Tuesday said she will not pursue a citizens initiative to overturn the council’s decision to borrow $5.5 million for construction of the facility.
“Although I continue to oppose the current plan and location for the new police station, I will not be initiating a citizen’s petition,” Karen Klatt said in a prepared statement.
She also said that although a new and better facility is long overdue, increasing the size of the station and moving it to the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood streets is not what is needed.
Police Chief Richard Rizzo and Deputy Chief Marc Hagan disagree. They say the new location will allow the department to provide the best possible police services.
“This facility is just simply inadequate for what our officers are trying to accomplish for the town of Brunswick,” Hagan said of the existing police station on Federal Street. “We’re making it work right now, but it’s often difficult and when it comes down to it, this is about the town of Brunswick and what we can do for it and what we should be doing for it as local law enforcement.”
Rizzo said the 20,000 cars passing by the Pleasant-Stanwood intersection every day will make the new station very visible, which in turn will make residents and visitors feel safe.
“The people that are going to benefit the most are the folks that live in town and visit the town,” he said. “It’s never really been about the officers, it’s always been about the town and what the town deserve. The people in town, the taxpayers, deserve a modern police station for them to visit if they have a problem.”
Both officers said the current station, at 28 Federal St., is virtually crumbling around the department.
Boxes and equipment line the already narrow hallways, making it difficult for officers to conduct the day-to-day aspects of their job. Six detectives are crammed into one small room, and shift commanders are often ousted from their office so that interviews can be conducted.
In the evidence room, boxes are piled on the floor, making it difficult to locate necessary evidence, and the booking room is filled with expensive equipment that could be easily ruined, Hagan said, if a suspect were to get in a scuffle with an officer.
Two of the three holding cells in the station are usable, but the third, formerly the women’s cell, was closed by the state because it was inhospitable, the officers said.
But both Hagan and Rizzo said that the biggest problem is the way the small space hampers the interaction between officers and suspects or victims.
“The problem with our set-up here right now is, to be honest, we have to parade victims by everybody if it’s shift change,” Hagan said. “The interview room is right beside where patrol officers are getting ready for their shifts, and you can hear everything going on in both rooms. It’s just not a good set-up and now you take a victim, and quite often, by accident, we victimize them by bringing them by a whole group of guys sitting there getting ready for their shift.”
Rizzo said that problem won’t exist in the new station.
“Imagine you being a victim of a sexual assault and being in this office, us talking, and men and women out there joking around, laughing,” he said. “In the new police station we will have a special place for this, or we can bring them right upstairs, straight into the detective division, without passing anybody, into a private room where none of that will be heard. The day-to-day operations won’t be heard by the victim. That’s just one small thing, but it’s huge.”
The only thing missing from the new station design, Rizzo said, is a community room that would allow the department to better conduct outreach programs.
“We could have used it for training, and the public could have used it for public-oriented type things,” he said. “… Nothing’s better than folks to be coming into the police station for a positive meeting. Seeing officers going about their business, talking and interacting with police officers unrelated to a crime – nothing’s more positive than that.”
As long as no one comes forward to start a citizen’s initiative to overturn the council decision, construction on the new police station could begin as early as October.
Signatures from 5 percent of registered voters must be returned to the town clerk by July 29 to send the decision back to the council. If that happens, the council can either rescind the decision or send it to referendum.
Currently, six detectives are squeezed into one small room at the Brunswick Police Department on Federal Street. In the plan for a new station, the office will still have six workstations, but in a much larger space. There will also be two interview rooms and storage space for audio visual equipment.
Patrol bicycles are kept in a hallway outside Police Chief Richard Rizzo’s office in Brunswick.