Missing the first class will not impress...
The 11 or so “students” accepted into the Summerville Citizens Police Academy were greeted by SPD Chief of Police Bruce Owens.
Although I have looked forward to the start of this academy for weeks, a last minute change of schedule for the first class resulted in a conflict with my work schedule.
Rushing to the police station (all the while obeying the traffic laws, of course) got me there just as the first session was letting out.
Kindness on the part of training officer Lt. Rick Peeples prevailed, and I got a private tour of the SPD facility on West 2nd North Street.
A somewhat unassuming building from the street, the facility houses far more than could be imagined.
On entering the station, a smoked glass window to the right hides the 911 dispatchers. Of course, they can see you even if you can’t see them.
A pleasant and welcoming receptionist sits behind another glass window ready to help whomever comes in.
To the left is a set of double doors, through which detectives come and go. However, it is mid-evening and all but dispatch are empty.
Walking through the station, various administrative offices are pointed out: the Chief’s office, the Deputy Chief, the various administrators, the training room, the shift supervisor offices, the detectives’ bullpen, the records office, to name a few.
Peeples points at a locked door next to a wall of what looks like post office boxes or, perhaps, safe deposit boxes. Each has a lock. These are evidence boxes, he explains.
An officer puts his bagged evidence in one, locks it and puts the key through a slot. The evidence or crime scene techs will come in the next morning, unlock an individual box and begin processing the evidence. This keeps the chain of evidence intact.
A bit further back, Peeples opens a door into what looks like an oversized garage.
“This is our Sally Port,” he explains. A Sally Port is a secure means of transferring prisoners. The police car - with a prisoner in the back - pulls in, the “garage door” shuts, the officer gets the individual out of the police car and through the door into the interior of the station. They are then in a hallway that opens into a sort of booking area.
There is a fingerprint scanner (as opposed to the more traditional ink and paper, the scanner takes digital fingerprints), a camera to take mug shots and, down another hall, a room where there is apparatus to take a Breathalyzer test. Across from here is one of about four holding cells. The small cells hold a toilet and a “bed” - a metal base with a mattress. These rooms are undergoing restorative painting because of the damage those held in them have done.
We finish up the tour with a quick peek into dispatch where the operators sit in a darkened room with four screens in front of each of them, 911 phone lines and microphones to communicate with fire and police personnel.
Peeples tells me that Owens’ time with the students was spent mostly filling them in on the history of the department.
The most important message from the chief, he says, is that police officers in Summerville follow the Golden Rule.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series. Class 2 on Friday.