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The Proposed New Bethel Police Station is About More Than Location, Size or Cost

We will soon be voting on approval of a new police station in Bethel Connecticut. The referendum date is December 17, 2015.  I urge residents to take all the following facts into consideration when you are in that voting booth.

Report by Paula Antolini
December 12, 2015 2:06PM EDT

policestationnew

OPINION

The Proposed New Bethel Police Station is About More Than Location, Size or Cost

We will soon be voting on approval of a new police station in Bethel Connecticut. The referendum date is December 17, 2015.  I urge residents to take all the following facts into consideration when you are in that voting booth.

People assume that when we contact our local police in an emergency situation, they will be there in minutes, able to help save or protect us, which includes investigating crimes afterwards, discovering evidence, and finding the perpetrator, etc.

Although the Bethel Police force is doing a great job, I feel that they are limited to not working at top capacity due to the current physical conditions of the headquarters and the technology they are provided, to name a few problems.  The physical limitations of the present headquarters on Plumtrees Road can also have a negative mental effect on officers, of not providing the proper relief for them after having to possibly face life’s worst situations in protecting the community, when they return to the station.

I’d like to remind residents that the police have one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  Their charge is to protect us at all costs, even laying down their lives to protect us if the situation calls for that.  They arrive at work each day not knowing what the day will hold.  Yes, some days are very routine but others are not.  That is proven by the recent terrorism activity in the California shooting, for example, or the Sandy Hook massacre, or the 9/11 event, and many more incidents large and small.

We live in a different world now.  The least we can do is to provide our police force with the proper tools and working conditions to do their job properly and efficiently. They should have the necessary environment in place to keep everyone safe in the police station, and be able to properly process suspects and/or contain them according to the law.  Police officers should have a place for their own recovery, if need be, from horrendous situations they may have to face at short notice.

A police officer’s tasks are varied.  One day they are doing paperwork and filing, or helping to build community relations with the Boy or Girl Scouts, or directing traffic for the local Memorial Day Parade, or perhaps catching speeders, or chasing a stolen car.  The next day they are ringing a doorbell to inform someone of a loved one’s death by car accident or homicide or processing evidence after having to witness a grisly crime scene.  They deal with drug addicts, drunk drivers, burglars, sexual predators, rapists, murderers, the mentally ill, cyber crime and identity theft.  They comfort us in time of need.  They are there to receive and act upon our complaints. They take control and follow protocol to uphold the law, each and every day.

Why do people join the police force?  They do it to serve justice, to help and protect people, or to help victims of horrendous crime move on with their lives.  They do it to help those in emergency situations.  They help guide the youth who are troubled.  Police officers are the first on the scene.  In natural disasters they evacuate towns, if need be.  They face disaster and destruction with bravery.  If you or a loved one is lost they will rescue us without hesitation, in any conditions.  They are called upon to disarm potentially harmful perpetrators, as in terrorist attacks.

Being on the police force requires long and odd hours, time away from family, and sometimes trauma.  Each day they kiss their families goodbye before leaving for work, not knowing if they will return safely.

Can you imagine doing any or all of the above and having to come back to the poor conditions that exist in our Bethel Police Station today?

Click here to read my other report (with 40 photos): “PHOTOS: Fifteen Reasons Why Bethel Needs a New Police Station” for the photos of the deplorable conditions at the present Bethel Police Station.

Our police deserve better than this for the job they are required to do. I’d say we owe it to these men and women to give them the best tools possible to do their job.  They are not asking for anything more than they need to do their job properly and it is hardly their total wishlist.  We are not building a library or school, we are building a secure building that requires more state-of-the-art technology and safety features because OUR lives and the lives of the police officers may depend on it.

Recently many new developments have been approved in Bethel for a tremendous increase in residential properties which is sure to increase the workload of the police force and could possibly bring more crime.  The “Bethel Forward” (master plan for Transit Oriented Development or TOD) and other projects such as Bethel Crossing (72 new homes) and the Grand Street project (multi-unit homes) and a proposed housing complex on Taylor Avenue (many more homes), indicated possible multi-use zoning changes, so more commercial and residential uses are possibly coming to Bethel too.  This requires more areas to be patrolled and more technology to do so and more work hours and more recovery time for officers.

A growing community requires a top-notch police force and police headquarters.  Our Bethel police force needs a new building to address what will come in the next 20 years, not situations that only exist now.

Regarding the location near school property, who can argue that our schools will not be safer with shorter response time or that the presence of a police station near the school campus will deter crime?  Traffic is not an issue either if the old headquarters is just off the other school entrance on Plumtree’s, merely on the other side of the school campus, and we have no traffic issue now.  Most police officers are on patrol is squad cars and thus do not leave with sirens blaring from headquarters when called to the scene of a crime as they are already out in the field.   The new building is also set back into the back part of the field on Judd Avenue and residents will still be able to enjoy the beautiful park-like setting. Residents can still walk their dogs there and the beautiful Forsythia will not be disturbed, I was assured by Chief Finch, or he said he’d replant them himself.

The new police station will include a larger conference room that will be able to also be used for community events and presentations, Police Chief Finch said.  This means not only will police be able to now have the room to do presentations to the public on law or safety related issues but community organizations can use the facility too, he said.  Adult and youth residents can have more connection with our local police and get to know who they are and vice-versa.  This is a win-win for everyone.

Most people are in favor of the new police station according to comments made at meetings and meeting attendance and voting, I observed.  I believe this project has been carefully developed with consideration of possible other locations, careful selection of design and layout of the facility by experts, and what should be contained in the building regarding materials, technology and safety aspects.

Finally, the proposed firing range is a necessity and will not cause noise problems, especially now that it is planned to be underground.  I’ve stood in the next room of the present firing range at police headquarters, watching through a glass window while an officer was firing at the target and it was not very loud at all, at that close distance, and I was not wearing ear protection and didn’t need it.

Other than my family, I cannot think of anything I would rather spend my dollars on than to have a police facility that is up to today’s standards in order to protect us properly.  I respect and commend the job our officers do and we owe them gratitude and a decent place to work out of, and to come back to after the horrendous situations they might have to face on a daily basis.

The police officers need to be kept physically fit with an exercise facility, mentally fit with a proper place to decompress, and keep their skills sharp with a practice firing range on the premises.  They should not be tripping over supplies or having inadequate hygiene facilities.  It’s the least we can do for the Bethel Police Department, after all, these are the individuals that dedicate their lives to protecting us.

The Bethel Police Department is always there for us, now it is time we are there for them and support them fully.

The proposed new Bethel Police Station is about more than location, size or cost, it’s about giving the people who give their all to us, the tools and facility to do their job properly.

Vote yes on Dec. 17th to approve the proposed new police station in Bethel, CT.

 

Paula Antolini
Bethel, CT

 

 

 

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