The walls are cracking and peeling and some who work inside the Quincy Police Department feel it's an unsafe working environment. Tuesday night, during the regular meeting of the Quincy City Commission, Chief Walt McNeil requested that the department relocate to the W.A. Woodham Justice Center.
"This action is being requested as a result of the severe water intrusion problems at the current location. If approved, this action would allow the police chief to work with the Gadsden County Sheriff to develop and implement a 30 days relocation plan not to exceed $40,000." McNeil said.
He said he has spoken with Sheriff Morris Young and the GCSO staff will occupy the second and third floors of the four story building. The QPD offices will occupy the first floor. The move, he believes, will increase the morale of employees and improve the working surroundings. The department will be relocated from 18 to 36 months.
"I'm glad we're making this move to get us out of that building," McNeil said.
The police department currently operates out of the old historic post office building which, according to McNeil, has severe limitations and is in need of major renovations. Over the past few years, the building has deteriorated to the point of compromising the quality of employee performance.
"It has been suggested by several employees that the condition of the building is having a negative impact in terms of their perceived value to the community, resulting in poor employee morale," McNeil said.
In the past several options have been considered for relocation but none have been a feasible alternative. McNeil said the space offered by Sheriff Young meets all of the needs of the police department and is less than two blocks away from the current police headquarters building. The area that has been suggested by Young is in operational condition and should require little to no structural changes.
"There is a communal kitchen on the first floor but that can be cordoned off with a separate entrance," he said, adding, "there will be the cost of some carpet laid, moving telephones but a lot of the work will be done by inmate labor and county staff. I fully expect the cost to be around $28,000."
The move can also be made with little or no disruption of service and provides the QPD and the GCSO and opportunity to share resources and improve service in the city.
"This relocation has the potential to provide the city with a low cost immediate solution to the problems with the police headquarters building while allowing for the exploration of long term alternatives," he said.
In other matters:
• Chief McNeil requested and received $20,000 to provide training for all departmental employees over the next eight months. The training will range from high liability training for patrol officers to training for communication center dispatchers and property evidence training for the evidence technician. After looking at the previous budget, only $3,000 was set aside for training, which does not meed the department's needs, he said.
The problem, McNeil said, arose when the department severely over estimated the number of free training classes available through other agencies in Gadsden, Leon and Jackson Counties. McNeil said the following training is necessary to meet the needs of the community: all police officers and supervisors need training in community policing, avoiding racial profiling, human diversity, domestic violence, ethics for police officers, accountable leadership, administrative investigations, function and outcomes, the field training program, interview and interrogation techniques and responding to juvenile offenders.
In his review of the department's training needs two other area of concern relate to non-sworn staff also caught his attention. They are property and evidence collection and processing as well as management of the communications center.
Money for the training will come from not replacing the police dog that died in 2010.