Renovations enhance police safety

Daily American Staff Writer


Patrick Driscoll of Bob Biter Electrical Enterprises of Cresson installs electrical components to the room for the officers’ workstations. (Staff photos by Michelle Ganassi - Daily American)

Thursday, July 24, 2008 6:01 AM EDT

Anyone who has previously been inside the Somerset Borough Police Department may not recognize it now. But the knocked-out walls and new construction are signs that the new state-of-the-art police department is well on its way to being finished. Police Chief Randy Cox said the renovated building should be ready for police to move into around Sept. 21.

Adding eight to 10 security cameras inside and outside the building and using bulletproof glass and ballistic drywall will help ensure officer and public safety. The new audio/video system will cost about $23,000 to $24,000, which is about $5,000 less than anticipated. The entire project, not including the general contract work, is about $15,000 under budget, Cox said. Purchasing items from state surplus and state contracts helped to save some money on the roughly $1.5-million project.

One of Cox’s favorite additions for officer and public safety is two holding cells. “There’s never been a really good way to secure prisoners,” Cox said. An entrance near the holding cells allows officers to enter directly from the street. Video arraignment equipment will be kept in the holding cell area so prisoners do not need to be moved. “Everything we need to process them will be right here,” he said. “It was not uncommon for an officer to be trying to complete a criminal complaint with the guy who was arrested handcuffed to the wall 2 to 3 feet away. It will be better for prisoner and public security.”

The basement is being converted to a basic crime laboratory and a room for officers to clean their guns after they come off the range, Cox said. Separate male and female locker rooms and shower and restroom areas have also been added. “We used to have one restroom for everybody,” Cox said.


Roy Fritz of Fritz Enterprises connects the data and telephone network to the new office for the department’s officers-in-charge. (Staff photos by Michelle Ganassi - Daily American)

The new department will include a foyer area where someone can talk to police or 911 through a call box system. The area will be under video surveillance. People can lock the outside door and be secure inside the foyer in the event of an emergency, Cox said. “It allows for safe communication,” he said. The entrance to the new police department will be placed behind the elevator to the community room.

A conference room is located before the police entrance so people do not have to enter the police department to speak with an officer. The room can also be used for classes and training, Cox added. The officer workroom will have five workstations for officers to use while on duty. “We normally won’t need five, but at the busiest time we could,” Cox said. The interview rooms will also be equipped with video cameras. One of the rooms will have an audio recording system. With the push of a button officers can record courtroom quality audio, Cox said.

The new criminal investigation office is much bigger than the area in the former office. The office will feature cubicles instead of walls in case the department wants to expand, Cox said. To help make the transfer of evidence more secure, workers are installing a pass-through evidence system. The system is located in the temporary evidence room and has 26 different compartments in different sizes for evidence to be stored. After an officer labels the evidence, they put it in the system, which secures it. Officer Ruth Beckner, who is the evidence custodian, retrieves the items inside the evidence locker and properly stores the items, Cox said.

Cox said the additions and state-of-the-art technology system are a much needed asset for the department. “From what I was told the original office was an afterthought when they designed the building,” he said. “That would explain why it was in the middle of the building.” Improvements are also being made to the fire department. The borough offices were moved to a new building on the other side of Union Street.

(Michelle Ganassi can be reached at
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A Better Facility

Somerset Daily American Editorial

Friday, July 25, 2008 9:03 PM EDT

The Somerset Borough Police Department is going from not having enough room for regular duties to having more than enough room for its needs.

The police department was a small portion of the borough building on 340 West Union Street. However since a new borough building was constructed across the highway, the police and fire department are sharing the older building. A $1.5 million project is underway to create safer working conditions for the officers and the suspects. The police will have actual holding cells for suspects, a basic laboratory for crime solving and a separate place to clean and maintain their firearms.

Officers should be able to return to their renovated building by Sept. 21. Until then the department is being operated out of a former convenience store/pizza shop on the 300 block of West Main Street. As the need for more police protection grows, this renovation project could not have come at a safer time. In times of high anxiety and emotion, such as during an arrest, it’s imperative that the police department has the right resources to protect everyone involved. It appears this project will go a long way in meeting the future needs of Somerset’s finest.


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Posted 7-24-08

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