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Cape Police Department Open House

JOSH JAMES

 

You’re probably familiar with the expression, “some things get better with age.” Unfortunately for Cape Girardeau, a police department is not one of those things. The police department of Cape Girardeau was completed in 1976, making the facility nearly forty years old. In that time, the building has gone through a fair amount of wear and tear. Meanwhile, technology—an important tool for police today—has made many leaps and bounds. According to Cape Girardeau Chief of Police Wes Blair, the current facilities are no longer capable of bridging the technological gap to fulfill the city’s needs.

Chief Blair was appointed the new Chief of Police last year. He had previously been the Assistant Chief in Lancaster, Texas, a town quite comparable in size to Cape Girardeau. One of the first observations that Blair noted when touring the facilities for the first time was how small and outdated it was. “All of the previous facilities that I have worked in have been built within the past ten years” Blair stated. That’s quite a difference to the Cape facility that is more than three times as old.

The predominant concern that Chief Blair has in regards to the facility is safety. The building has a few obvious unsafe architectural features, namely the path that inmates have to take when they are being led to and from their cells. The path takes them directly through a public area, which creates the potential for numerous employees and citizens to be harmed in the case of an incident. Another outdated feature Chief Blair noted is the barred cell doors. Blair explained that most updated facilities have solid doors with plexiglass windows so that you can still see inside the cells. According to Blair, these bar-style cell doors enable inmates to reach through and grab at passersby, and they are, “something you would see on the Andy Griffith Show.”

While safety is a big concern with the outdated Cape Police Department facilities, another issue is the sanitation of the jail. Because the plumbing is so old, it is fairly easy for the lines to get backed up and cause flooding in the cells. Sometimes inmates will try to flush items such as clothing and trash down toilet. These kinds of backups are prevented in newer facilities that have larger traps in the pipes that would enable larger objects to pass through. Other safety shortcomings of the facility are its lack of ADA compliancy and minimal fire safety.

A recent needs assessment estimated the cost of building a new police station to be about $12 - $14 million, only half a million more than attempting to renovate the current facility to meet the city’s needs. Renovating the current facility would also cause displacement of the department’s employees as well as the inmates it holds. Funding proposals for the project are still in the works by city management.

To help the community recognize the need for a new facility, the Cape Girardeau Police Department will be holding an open house this week. Tours will be given on Tuesday March 11 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm and Friday, March 14 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. On Tuesday, March 18th, Police Chief Blair will be giving a tour from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm followed by a building insight and review presentation from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Image: Chief of Police Wes Blair, courtesy City of Cape Girardeau Blog

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