New home for Kent police

By TERRY CORCORAN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: January 29, 2005)

KENT — The trailer-trash jokes have stopped.

Now when people walk into the new Kent Police Department off Route 52 the comment that's usually heard is, "It's about time."

Since May 2000, the department's 21 sworn officers and five civilian dispatchers worked from two modified construction trailers next to their former headquarters in the old Town Hall on Route 52. A ceiling collapse forced the move.

But when the new $12 million town center campus opened in November, police finally freed themselves from the trailers — and the teasing that came with it. Town officials estimate the police station cost about $2.5 million.

Instead of officers and dispatchers having to share two 500-square-foot trailers with prisoners and the public, they're now stretching their legs in the 8,400-square-foot station.

"The difference is like night and day. I can't even put it into words," Chief Donald L. Smith said. "I don't know if people have any idea how taxing it could be to work in trailers. It wasn't fair for the people we served, let alone the officers and dispatchers."

Smith said he no longer has to adjust the plaques on his walls when a snowplow or big truck rumbles by.

"We couldn't even talk on the phones during heavy rain because the sound on the metal roof was too loud," Lt. Alex DiVernieri said.

One trailer that housed the dispatch center was where the public went for official business. But it was also where prisoners were booked and held before being taken to the county jail.

The cramped quarters posed the potential for trouble, as in April 2002 when a 30-year-old man being held on drug charges was handcuffed by one arm to a bench in the rear of the trailer. He struggled with the two arresting officers, Tara Flynn and Thomas Carey, who managed to restrain him. That incident and others like it highlighted the need for a more secure holding area, away from dispatchers and the public. The new holding area is secured by two locking doors and monitored by cameras.

In the trailers, dispatchers greeted the public face-to-face over a half-door. They now work behind thick glass in a state-of-the-art communications center.

"We've had dispatchers assaulted by the public," DiVernieri said. "This is much more secure."

The second trailer housed the chief's and DiVernieri's offices, plus several desks and a couple of computers shared by detectives and patrol officers. Now the department's detectives — Kevin Douchkoff, Gerald Locascio and Kevin Owens — have their own office and computers, as do the four sergeants. The building also has training rooms, a conference room, separate entrances for juvenile offenders, a video-monitoring system and an electronic system that records when a specific officer opens a door.

Dispatcher Caroline Van Tassell has worked for the department for 15 years. She said people notice when they walk into the new station.

"They're pleased to have a building they can be proud of," she said. "The public has been very supportive."

Elizabeth Bachmann, a 35-year town resident, recently visited the station and said she liked it.

"The police are obviously thrilled with it and, for them, it was necessary. They were housed in quarters that were just too small," she said.

Al DiLeo, a 22-year Kent resident, said a professional police department deserves professional surroundings.

"They needed a home and I think it's great that they finally got it," he said. "I'm glad to see that we've got a new Town Hall and library, too."

Reach Terry Corcoran at tcorcora@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2275.Reach Terry Corcoran at tcorcora@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2275.



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