DeKALB – Tours of the new DeKalb Police Department included little extras for children, including letting them experience being locked in a cell.
“They thought it was really cool. They really enjoyed everything about it. They were glad that they went,” said Tara Grommes, a Hinckley resident who works in DeKalb. “And, hopefully, they won’t ever end up there. I hope that it gave them an insight to the way that they take care of bad people.”
Grommes, her daughter, niece, and two of their friends were among about 200 people to participate in Saturday’s open house at the police station. They received an hour-long tour of the 35,000-square foot, $12.7 million building, which has been fully operational since November.
Because of the open house, any bookings during the day were processed by the Northern Illinois University Police Department.
The tours started in the spacious sally port – the secure area where “bad guys” are brought into the station. Of note was the pepper spray wash area, which allows arrested individuals to wash themselves off if they’ve been sprayed. In the old station, this was done by officers with a garden hose, Cmdr. John Petragallo said.
As the tour continued into the station, pictures on the wall in each area showed its counterpart at the old facility on Fourth Street for comparison.
“Numerous times I had people come up and tell me that judging from the tour, and the condition of the old station in the pictures that were displayed, they really knew that we had a great need for this building,” Petragallo said.
The new building is an upgrade in every area: space, security, functionality and technology.
There are numerous conference rooms of all sizes – one of which has a framed copy of the United States Constitution on the wall. All of the meeting areas contain large glass walls and windows to encourage transparency. There is a large upstairs training room that also can be used for coordinating major cases.
The entire building is covered by video and audio surveillance. There is a separate juvenile area, which they didn’t have in the old facility. And the investigation area provides added privacy and security for witnesses. In the old station, a suspect and his accuser could potentially cross paths.
All of the departments – booking and jail, records, evidence, investigation and communications – now have their own separate work areas. There also is a workspace for an NIU officer who checks in every day.
“I, personally, think that they did a great job,” Grommes said. “I don’t think they went out and spent their money on anything random, just to have it. It definitely all has a purpose – to make everything run smoothly.”
The building was modeled after the new, state-of-the-art Hanover Park Police Station.
“I’m very impressed with the construction of the building,” said Jim McCabe of DeKalb. “I worked in the building department, as well as the fire department. The precast concrete walls I would consider to be tornado proof. I think it’s much safer for the people like the dispatchers. If you’ve got a storm going, [they] need to be able to continue to operate in a safe manner.”
Visitors taking the tour on Saturday all seemed to agree the money invested in the facility was wisely spent.
Some concerns arose during the planning process about the location, but being located near two underpasses and major arteries allows officers to get to where they need to go with a better response time.
DeKalb Police Chief Eugene Lowery said they have had far more walk-in customers at the new location.
“I’ve lived in this town for sixty-four years,” McCabe said, “and I don’t think the city has ever spent money on anything that’s so well spent as the new police facility.”