Police Families Always Want Their Police Officers to Be Safeguarded; Forget the Temporary Fort for Arlington Heights

The Village of Arlington Heights Board of Trustees has decided that the police department needs a new police station, listing the following shortcomings of the existing facility that will be resolved by constructing a new facility in the same location …

• Safety of officers and residents is a concern with the layout of the current station
• Significant lack of space for a Police Department of this size
• Holding cells do not meet current Illinois Dept. of Corrections standards
• Renovation costs to correct deficiencies is significant
• Roof and windows are beyond their useful life
• Facility is not handicap accessible
• Facility is not compliant with current codes
• Private areas are not secured from public areas
• HVAC system and controls are beyond their useful life
• Sally Port (controlled entryway into Police Station for prisoners) safety is not adequate
• Locker room space is inadequate for current equipment needs
• Security and surveillance are deficient

Use of the same site for a new facility will require leasing a temporary police headquarters in a commercial office or warehouse space for a duration of at least 18 months. Bold items are issues that will also likely be present (and worse) at any temporary police facility for the duration.

Current plans include placing a new police station in a tight space with limited entrance and egress by police vehicles and visitors. The entire north side of the planned facility will be blocked by railroad tracks. The proximity to railroad tracks places the $28 million facility in a location that is vulnerable to train accidents, hazardous materials accidents, hazardous materials incidents induced by terrorists, and obstruction of police responses caused by frequent train stalls or gate malfunctions.

The Village of Arlington Heights should use the opportunity of a new police headquarters to provide a new optimal location for a permanent Police Station, and avoid putting police officers in riskier and more dangerous situations resulting from using a temporary facility that is not designed to be a police station.

The police will move out, operate in a temporary location, and move back into the new facility at a forecasted duration of at least 18 months. Since the temporary facility is not designed to be a police facility, there is no way the facility can provide the safety, security and surveillance needed for a modern police station — including handling prisoners and protecting police officers from attack. Expenditures for two moves (instead of one move), building out the temporary facility, and paying rent for the temporary facility is money wasted that would be better spent toward a new police headquarters in a new location.

Arlington Heights police have a nickname for their existing police station. They call it “The Fort” and they expect their headquarters location, off the streets, to be safe and well-organized for operations. Their families, their parents, their wives, their husbands, their sons and daughters also expect them to be able to operate in the safest conditions possible. A temporary police station placed in a building that is designed for everyday office work does not provide those safe conditions — not for one day, and especially not for 18 months.

The current political climate in the United States compounds the decision to operate out of a temporary facility. Attitudes toward police officers nationwide have turned ugly. While major confrontations have not occurred in Arlington Heights, the general attitude portrayed in trouble spots in the United States has seeped locally into the attitudes of some people toward police. There is lack of respect for police among a significant portion of the population. Every time a police officer contacts a person or persons on a call or a traffic stop, the potential exists for abuse and defiance toward police — with reference to national level news stories of police brutality or police shootings, etc. The risk exists that people will act out toward innocent police officers that have nothing to do with (1) bad police officers, or (2) conflicts that have been dramatized by media sources or social media sources to intentionally show innocent police officers in a bad light.

This is no time in U.S. history to leave police officers vulnerable with a temporary police headquarters without permanent and hardened safety and security features. Local crime, violent crime, civil unrest, anarchist activities, Black Lives Matter activism, racism controversies, immigration controversies, nationalism, opposing political factions, LGBT rights, feminism, healthcare affordability, lack of economic opportunities, and poverty are all intense concerns currently. There is anger and frustration, especially from the left, following President Donald Trump’s election. Responding to a recent incident in local politics, a feminist faction even managed to show up last Monday at a Village of Arlington Heights Board meeting to vent their frustrations. Some even told the Village Board they are putting the board on notice … that they (the board) are now being watched. There are too many civil flashpoints to even consider operating out of a temporary police facility for 18 months or more in Arlington Heights.

• Nationwide, we have already started out the new year with frequent violent and peaceful protests. Future protests could erupt anywhere for a variety of causes. So far the focus of protests has turned away from the police, and has focused on President Donald Trump’s administration.

• The City of Chicago has possibly one of the worst reputations of violence of any city in the world. There is the risk of criminal expansion into the suburbs as gangs may want to escape other gangs in the city, and as criminals and gangs may want to escape a crackdown if potential federal action mentioned by President Donald Trump ever occurs. Every action has a reaction. Crime is already exported significantly to Waukegan, Oak Brook, near west suburbs, the northwest suburbs, and south suburbs. A suburban Evergreen Park homicide investigation recently spilled over into the Deerfield/Northbrook area, which resulted in a shootout with a homicide suspect on a Metra train.

• There is an increased use of weapons on roadways extending into the suburbs — either by unlawful displays of weapons or actual shootings. The signs that shootings are increasingly occurring in public places and on public roadways (compared to private domestic shootings) should be alarming. Shootings have been reported on the Eisenhower Expressway (frequently/monthly/weekly), Route 53 by Woodfield (last year), Algonquin Road in Rolling Meadows (last month) and the Walmart store in Palatine (this week).

• The use of a temporary police headquarters facility could actually attract criminals and terrorists to Arlington Heights — knowing that Arlington Heights Police Department is vulnerable in a temporary facility.

• The choice of location for a temporary facility that would optimally and fairly protect all citizens in Arlington Heights with effective response times would be difficult to select. A poor selection could increase drive times for police to get across town, which could cause delayed response times to emergencies, and cause general fatigue with increased driving time for routine police calls, investigations, and transport of prisoners, etc.

• The use of a temporary police facility would no doubt put unnecessary strain on police officers and their families. Extra duty, extra human effort and extra time would be required to overcome the shortcomings of a temporary facility. While our police officers are highly professional, that human strain (and resulting fatigue) could affect performance on the street, and could cause errors in a profession where errors can be deadly.

• If a police officer were looking for a transfer out of his or her existing police agency, or new police recruits were looking for their first police job; Arlington Heights, with its temporary police headquarters, would probably not be a first choice for those potential personnel.

• While some police officers might enjoy the challenge of using a temporary police headquarters for a bullet point on their resume, many existing police officers are more likely to hasten their retirement and get off the force before they have to endure the hassles, the risks, and the moving process — twice. No doubt, routine professionalism with extra human effort will be required to overcome the temporary facility shortcomings to maintain the high quality of service that is provided by our police officers. Extra load on human energy opens opportunities for human error. Some will likely choose to retire earlier rather than later, before they are placed in a situation caused by sub-optimal conditions … conditions that will unnecessarily endanger their lives or cause them to risk endangering their career and their retirement pensions.

As they say, “Police Lives Matter.”

VIEWER DISCRETION: Police Detroit, Michigan released a graphic 68-second video in January 2011 showing a gunman walking into one of the city’s precinct stations and engaging in a shootout with police. Four police officers were shot at the Detroit police precinct on a Sunday afternoon, January 23, 2011.

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