Dealing with a cramped working environment, and hearing from the Inyo County Grand Jury about it for the past decade, the Bishop Police Department has abandoned piece-meal fixes in favor of a more lasting solution.
And it may not even have to relocate.
For the past nine years, the PD has been looking into ways to address ongoing Grand Jury concerns regarding a lack of adequate space for police operations. According to Chief Chris Carter, the city has hired consultants to look at everything from building a second story onto the existing PD structure, to moving into a vacant, Verizon-owned building on Lagoon Street.
Building a second story onto the existing building, he said, was cost-prohibitive, as it would have been more expensive than simply demolishing the current structure and rebuilding.
“Verizon basically didn’t want to pursue that contract, which may have been a blessing in disguise because around the same time the economy tanked, and the city would have been committed to millions of dollars around the time it’s revenue outlook changed drastically,” Carter said.
Since the deal with Verizon fell through, the PD has been attempting to re-arrange its current space to meet the Grand Juries’ recommendations.
Last year’s Grand Jury, 2011-12, recommended in its Final Report that the PD “establish a capital improvement budget for ultimately relocating the Police Department to a larger facility that meets current and future needs.”
The Grand Jury also said the PD should, in the meantime, create a study group to identify space to adjust the current floor-plan to provide adequate space in the building for officers to conduct interviews with victims and witnesses.
In his official response, approved by the City Council last Monday, Aug. 13, Carter said he agreed with both findings.
“A study group has been convened and a proposed new floor plan is being prepared,” Carter’s response to the Grand Jury states. “Upon completion the city will explore avenues of funding in order to make capitol improvements to the existing structure which will allow for adequate design and space to meet the current and future needs of the Police Department.”
Because the city is taking those measures to meet the recommendations of the Grand Jury, Carter said that the city has not established a capital improvements budget to relocate the PD.
At least for now, Carter said, the PD has reached a point where it can comfortably and adequately function in its current location – without having to expand or relocate.
“Over the past nine years we’ve been making changes as time and money allows to make better use of our space, but it’s been a piece-meal solution, now we’re looking at a final goal,” Carter said. “This is where we’re going to stay easily for the next five years.”
The study group is currently looking at what walls can be removed and where new walls can be added to create a better working space for employees.
Carter said a timeline has not yet been established for when the study will be complete, because “we’re just now getting our feet wet,” but, he added, “I’m absolutely optimistic that there are ways to meet the Grand Jury’s recommendations” with the current space that is available.
The 2011-12 Grand Jury report on the PD didn’t just rehash the issue of cramped quarters.
The Grand Jury also commended the Bishop PD for “their continued good work,” and recommended certain improvements – several of which, Carter pointed out, had already been implemented by the time of the report’s release.
The Grand Jury also recommended that the PD “review staffing levels and determine whether it is a better use of resources to pay overtime rather than hire additional officers.”
Carter said he agreed with the Grand Jury’s finding, saying that the PD and city staff “regularly review staffing levels and service demands in order to best utilize General Fund expenditures in conducting police operations.”
Carter also said the Police Department is currently investigating the possibility of rerouting the Bishop Christmas Parade to reduce overtime expenditures the department generates each year by closing a number of intersections on Main Street.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss the Christmas Parade route at its meeting on Monday.
The Grand Jury also recommended that the PD install bulletproof glass between the public lobby of the department and dispatchers.
Carter said that recommendation was implemented several years ago, and the PD is currently looking into ways to protect civilian clerical staff that is currently housed adjacent to the lobby.
Carter said bulletproof glass may be purchased to separate clerical staff from the public lobby.
Another recommendation the Grand Jury made was to repaint the holding cell in the department, which was chipping.
Carter said the department had remedied that problem before the Grand Jury’s report was released.