Bristol police praise new headquarters

BRISTOL — The village police department has settled into a new space that officers say is more suitable for a modern police force.
The new, 2,200-square-foot headquarters for the Bristol Police Department, which has three full-time officers and five part-timers who work on an as-needed basis, is located at 72 Munsill Ave. in the Bristol Works.
Bristol Police Chief Kevin Gibbs said the difference between the new facility and the old department, which was located in the basement of Holley Hall, is “night and day.”
“This was designed for a police department rather than modified for it,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs described the disadvantages of the old space, which encompassed between 900 and 1,000 square feet.
“Before, we often had to interview victims in earshot or eyeshot of perpetrators,” the chief said. “We had to evacuate Holley Hall half a dozen times because of a violent suspect.”
The new offices are not owned by the town, but rather leased. Gibbs said he believed this was a good decision.
“We didn’t want to have a big bond, which is scary for taxpayers,” he said. “The advantage is that we don’t need to go to voters to ask for repairs, we can just ask the landlord.”
Sgt. Randy Crowe said the biggest improvement from the old facility is increased prisoner security.
“The chances of a prisoner escaping are much lower,” he said. Though no escapes occurred, Crowe said the possibility existed at the old facility. Many of the doors of the new department have passcode locks. A closed-circuit video system monitors most of the rooms.
“Once a prisoner is in here, the only way for them to get out is with assistance,” Crowe said.
The lobby is secure so that members of the public may wait inside without compromising the security of the facility. Beyond a locked door is a kitchenette with a refrigerator, so the department can be self-sufficient in the event of an emergency.
The facility also has a sally port that can accommodate both of the department’s cruisers. The advantage of the secure garage is that officers no longer have to transport prisoners in the open air, where there is the greater possibility of escape.
Next to the kitchenette in the new station is the control room, where Crowe and Officer Josh Otey work. Chief Gibbs, who is currently recovering from hip surgery, works in an adjoining office.
The new space, which the department moved into on Oct. 1, has a large conference room capable of holding search warrant meetings, which can involve up to 10 officers, Crowe said. Previously, the department had to use a conference room in the town office, which was often in use for other town functions.
“If we needed space, he had to fit it into the town office schedule,” Crowe said.
The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, which is housed in the same Bristol Works building, sometimes uses the department’s conference room for meetings. Community organizations are also welcome to use the space, Crowe said. The department’s control room, interview rooms and other secure areas can be locked while still providing access to the conference room.
This way, the public can still use the space, even if no police personnel are present.
Crowe said it was “borderline embarrassing” when the department hosted meetings with other law enforcement agencies in their Holley Hall office, which was a fraction of the size of the new space.
“Our old holding cell was two-by-fours and plywood,” Crowe said. “Now it’s a professional-looking office that gives us the ability to function safely and properly, with room for potential growth in the future.”
Crowe said that much of the furniture in the office was bought for a bargain or donated to the department.
“That’s a $2,800 toilet,” Crowe said, pointing to the john in the holding cell. “We got it on eBay for $75.”
Other furnishings include a steel bench from the Middlebury Police Department, a countertop from the Bristol town office, and chairs and filing cabinets from the National Bank of Middlebury and Vermont Federal Credit Union.
“Everything is recycled; (the banks) helped us out tremendously,” Crowe said. “It’s not the Taj Mahal by any stretch,” he added, explaining that the new facility is not luxurious, but will serve its purpose.
The department’s radios were obtained through a grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
The space was built with the future in mind, Crowe said. If the department ever expands to cover the entire town instead of just Bristol village, there is room to house more officers without expanding to a new facility.
“It gives us the space to expand without cramping our operations,” Crowe said. “We can fit up to six full-time officers.”

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