Whitehall Police are Working in New Headquarters

B y Lee Tugas

Richard LaChapelle, town councilman and village police sergeant, put the pin on the right week of the calendar.

He said village police would be in their new headquarters by the second week of October. And he was right.

Police began moving into their new headquarters last Wednesday and were in their eight offices in the Whitehall Municipal Building on Thursday, Oct. 10. Only dust and old file boxes remained behind at the old quarters on Montcalm Street, next to the village Department of Public Works.

LaChapelle and Officer Jason Vandenburgh were busy at work when a Whitehall Times photographer stopped by to take pictures of the facility. Finishing touches, of course, remain to be done. But all primary equipment from the Montcalm site has been moved into the new station, at the north end of the former Skenesborough Firehouse.

The new facility has ten main rooms: an entry way, or lobby; a main office; a processing room; an interview room; an evidence room; a multi-purpose room to house a small kitchenette, police lockers and furnace; two offices, one for LaChapelle and one for Chief Matt Dickinson; and two shower-bathrooms, one for police and the other for guests, invited or otherwise.

In the entry way, or lobby, a small glass partition separates visitors from the desk officer. A two-seat, mid-century sofa rests on the right for persons waiting in the lobby. The little piece of furniture has a history, LaChapelle said.

The piece dates back to 1970, when the village had a paid fire department. LaChapelle, who was then a paid fireman, brought the little sofa with him to the police station when he joined the force, he said.

“‘Got-it-Covered,’” a local business, “reupholstered it for free. It was red.” LaChapelle said. Now, a light, neutral vinyl covers the tiny little sofa that stands in the entrance.

LaChapelle said he intended to add some other personal touches to the entrance room, decorating it with police arm patches, primarily from New York State, but also from the United States, one even from Germany.

In the main office, where the desk officer sits, a split-screen television set is mounted high on the right wall. With the exception of the chief and sergeant’s offices, cameras that feed the split-screen monitor all rooms inside and all important areas outside the station. Infra-red cameras keep the evidence and interview rooms visible to the split-screen, even when normal lights are turned off.

The new processing room is fully computerized, has live audio and video monitoring, a copy machine and a data measuring device to “measure blood alcohol content,” LaChapelle said. The evidence room has a permanent shelf brought over from the old Montcalm station, but LaChapelle also purchased two portable evidence shelves that move on castors.

Past the main offices, in the rear of the building is the furnace room, out of which builders Jim Austin and Shan Beebe continue to fashion a locker room, shower room and kitchenette for the police.

“We’ll have a little counter top here,” LaChapelle said, “and a micro-wave and another television monitor so that we know what is going on even when we’re on break.”

Once again, the old green lockers tell a story. LaChapelle procured the U.S. army lockers ten years ago, when fellow officers agreed with him that it was annoying to have to dress at home.

The shower room and bathroom for suspects is the same as for the police, except that there is no lock on the door. Asked what the shower was for, LaChapelle said one use was to immediately wash out pepper spray used by police against anyone resisting arrest.

“You need to get it out of their eyes right away,” he said.

LaChapelle said there was more to do. But judging from the smile on his face when he said it, what’s left to do will not be considered a chore.

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