PITTSFIELD -- City officials on Tuesday gave U.S. Sen. Edward Markey an unexpected tour of the Pittsfield police station, hoping to convince him the city needs to replace the aging and outdated police headquarters.
Police Chief Michael J. Wynn, accompanied by Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi and Berkshire Sheriff Thomas Bowler, led Markey through the narrow halls of the crowded facility as part of the senator’s scheduled Pittsfield visit.
Wynn pointed out the 74-year-old building’s deficiencies when it comes to dealing with prisoners, the general public and working conditions for officers and staff.
"We pass our cell block inspection every year by the skin of our teeth -- thanks to our maintenance crew," he said.
In addition, Wynn cited Americans with Disabilities Act access issues, the lack of accommodations for female officers in the original building, and insufficient space when police are attempting to interview privately victims of crime or anyone being questioned or detained.
Markey said likened the tour to a time warp.
"I feel like I’m in a 1938 movie," Markey said, noting the architecture and layout of the facility, which is across from City Hall on Allen Street.
Late last year, Wynn received the go-ahead from Bianchi to seek funding options for a new police station. In addition, the chief secured a promise of assistance from the Police Advisory Committee, which agreed to write a letter of support outlining the acute need for a new facility and urging legislators and others to seek state, federal or other funding for the project.
Markey is the latest federal lawmakers city officials have approached about the need for a new police station. In December, Bianchi said he had "a very good conversation" about funding with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and has spoken to the state legislators as well.
No design for a new facility or decision on a location has been made at this point, according to city officials. First, there would be a feasibility phase to formally study the city’s options regarding the Police Department having outgrown its headquarters.
The department in 1939 had 60 officers, five reserves, a matron, and no female officers, according to statistics supplied by the chief, compared to 117 police and civilian employees today.
The garage and areas around the station also are outmoded, police officials have said, as the department has moved from an era when most patrols were on foot to one in which cruiser patrols predominate. There now are 40 police vehicles, compared to 14 in 1939.
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