"From double-wide trailer to modern facility."
Few police departments would not wish for more space for all their activities and the wish list would certainly include updated equipment, reserved areas for specialized activities, comfortable and safe surroundings for employees, and at least a few creature comforts. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, depending on budget, demographics, community and administrative support, and departmental needs.
Some departments with more resources may choose to build a new department suitable for future needs. Other departments may remodel or look for a facility that will meet their needs and then utilize every available resource to stretch their finances.
Lakemoor, Ill. straddles the Lake and McHenry county line near the Wisconsin border. Police Chief Bill Kushner found himself coming into a department that had lots of turmoil, including several short-term chiefs. His first priority was to improve hiring practices and upgrade their department to gain community support and respect from other law enforcement agencies.
Lakemoor was founded in the 1920s as a resort community. It had explosive growth in the 1980s and 1990s, with a population of 6,017 fairly evenly distributed between the 29 square miles across two counties. The rapid growth left the small department unable to meet the needs of the 21st century.
Mayor Todd Weihofen located Chief Kushner, who had completed the Certified Chief of Police program, through the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Linebacker Program, as an interim chief, but quickly made that appointment permanent. Kushner was the fourth chief in 18 months and the situation was desperate enough that the Village Board was ready to shut down the Lakemoor Police Department if their new hire was not able to turn things around.
Lakemoor’s Previous Police Facility
Chief Kushner joined the department housed in what was to be a temporary short-term facility by way of a free double-wide trailer. It was minimally ADA compliant, with a questionable electrical system and had no room for expansion and inadequate space for files, evidence or even normal patrol and investigative functions.
Poor conditions placed employee safety at issue and when an officer put his foot through a spongy-soft rotting floorboard in the restroom, the city agreed that something must be done. The 1100-square-foot double-wide had two bathrooms, a records’ office, a chief’s office, a combination locker room / squad room / lunch room, and a work area with a cage for temporary restraint of prisoners. The department had not been able to keep evidentiary items in their own department for years and these were kept in the village hall.
Chief Kushner was given the task of finding a place to house a new police facility that had to be available in the immediate future. Kushner located a fully furnished building owned by a drywall company. The structure was not only able to accommodate them, but it had sufficient room to grow for at least the next quarter of a century and with 1 ¼ acres of land, expansion projects were possible as well.
The city agreed to buy the building for $635,000 from the general fund and supply another $20,000 for whatever else was needed by way of furnishings and supplies. The real estate was slightly above the average price per square foot in the area, but the department had to buy within the Village of Lakemoor limits.
The New Facility
The new facility is on a concrete slab with over 1800 square feet of office space and every office is wired for voice and data. The building is steel construction with a masonry façade and was already set up for the generator, which Kushner was able to acquire through federal surplus from Afghanistan and Iraq.
In addition to the office space, the building has three garage bays isolated from the main portion of the building with a wall and secure doors. This bay area is self-contained with a separate bathroom / shower facility, including four bathrooms, two with showers. One bay was converted into a courtroom / training room, utilizing federal surplus furniture.
The property was the best possible solution and ready for immediate occupancy in December 2011. Kushner’s officers were grateful for the improvement in working conditions and had pride in their new surroundings. Chief Kushner reported, “We were incredibly fortunate that the building we purchased was already cabled for data, as well as being fully furnished, except for chairs.”
Most Bang for Buck
Since money had to be stretched as far as possible, Bill Kushner realized his best bet was to explore free or low-cost resources for his new offices. That $20,000 had to finish things up for the department so every purchase was made after considering the options. He sought equipment from state and federal sources, but since he needed equipment and to move out of their old facility immediately, he could not wait for most grant processes. He does plan to utilize grant funding in the future.
Kushner’s far northern Illinois department had desperate need of a four-wheel-drive vehicle and the Village board could not supply the $40,000 needed for it and did not want the liability of a rental vehicle. His officers had used their own four-wheel-drive vehicles on a rescue mission involving 15 people.
Kushner asked for a Humvee from the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) of the Department of Defense, surplus military equipment available to local law enforcement. LESO had an HMMWV that someone ordered and didn’t want. Kushner was able to pick this up for free and someone in his city donated an alternator and emergency equipment as well as paint. It ended up costing the city only $62.40 for fan belts. He also utilized LESO to obtain night vision equipment and 11 M-16 carbines for the Department, allowing him to set aside his cash for other necessary items and unfunded improvements to the facility.
Looking into every possible resource for supplying his new department, Chief Kushner also contacted the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) and was able to secure laptop computers. He used the federal surplus program administered by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services to purchase office chairs for $25 each and three banks of weapons lockers (handgun storage for prisoner processing) for $10 each. He truly stretched his startup money.
Their temporary lockup for prisoners waiting for transport in the old facility had been a bench by the wall with U-bolts to cuff prisoners and they had previous escapes. Kushner ordered a wire mesh case and had it installed right away. They had that same setup duplicated and doubled with four walls and added a roof at the new building. If they need overnight accommodations, they can use that of their neighboring village, Wauconda. Their new department has two locker rooms with a secure area for officers. They have a secure bonding room so people do not have to walk through the department to bond out.
File Storage and RMS
To say that Lakemoor had a problem with storage was an understatement. They had a large number of paper files stored in a shower in one of the double-wide’s bathrooms and are still shopping for a new record management system (RMS) with neighboring jurisdictions.
Lakemoor moved their dispatching services from the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department to the City of Wauconda 9-1-1 center. Wauconda Chief of Police Doug Larson said all the local departments use the Lake County CAD system and Larson is checking out vendors for a new RMS. He would like to find a system that has a lot of versatility and allows them to do a lot of changes in-house rather than have to keep buying additional software. It will be cost effective for Kushner to use Wauconda’s compatible RMS system for all their needs. Kushner also secured server cabinets at the Illinois Central Management Services after getting recommendations for the server size from an information technology specialist.
Lakemoor and its neighboring cities are looking at third-party data storage off-site in case of any disaster that might destroy their files and backup. The city has explored a virtual server, but the police department must have secure storage that may be more than the city requires.
Chief Kushner moved his dispatch services from McHenry County to Wauconda using radios they already owned. Wauconda Chief Larson said Chief Bill Kushner became their client for communications a few months before and as part of the agreement, Lakemoor can use Wauconda’s four-bed jail and booking area if needed. Wauconda has the newest and most high-tech communications center in Lake County, which has many individual apartments and a large population base.
Watson Dispatch provided Wauconda’s communication consoles, counters, cabinets and other furnishings and Telex (Bosch Communications) provided the software. Because of the all-steel structure of Lakemoor’s building, Kushner had to install a small signal booster (repeater) in order for the Star Com radios and cell phones to work properly.
In the past, Chief Kushner had been forced to use a closet in the Village Hall, outside of the police department, for evidence retention. The new police facility changed all that, bringing the evidence storage back into the police department for the first time in years, with only the Chief and evidence custodian having access at the onset.
Lakemoor is utilizing the Crime Fighter BEAST software / bar coding system for evidence tracking and took that with them to their new facility. Chief Kushner reported, “I doubt there are any better evidence tracking systems out there.” With the bar code system, it allows easy location of the evidence until it is returned or destroyed. Their evidence custodian has received specialized training, and they adopted a policy manual from Lexipol, which covers their evidence processing.
Lakemoor’s new evidence facility is roomy enough for a drug area with special ventilation to deal with the off-gassing of the cannabis. While they are still working on the finishing touches, Lakemoor PD will have a safe for cash storage, and a special secure area for confiscated weapons. They are going to inventory their evidence room quarterly, due to some alleged improprieties in the past.
Starting From Scratch
Since Chief Kushner came into a department in an outdated and inadequate facility, and needed just about everything for a modern department, one of his first trips was to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference (IACP) in Chicago in October 2011. There, he found ideas, made contacts, and learned about new and innovative equipment.
Chief Kushner was really on the lookout for affordable technological advances to update his department. When Dave Trudeau, CEO Clear Armor LLC, stopped in to explain his product, Kushner contracted Clear Armor to “harden” the glass in the service window in his lobby. Clear Armor is a system of layers of PET that essentially transforms regular glass into a bullet-resistant surface, optically clear but tinting is available.
Trudeau emphasized that Clear Armor takes pride in hiring military veterans and only providing their service to law enforcement, banks, and others with legitimate security needs in order to keep Clear Armor from getting into the wrong hands. Clear Armor can be installed on existing glass and is bomb, bullet, smash and burglar resistant. He stated the product is “mind boggling” and was able to withstand small arms fire at 25 feet from FMJ hollowpoint fire from 9 mm., .38, .45, .45 long, and .40 calibers.
The bullets will ricochet, fragment or be stopped by the glass with the Clear Armor laminate. Swat teams, bomb squads and banks use the product as well as police, and they are working “Poppins” shields that can be transferred from car to car to lower the cost of a permanent installation and keep from leaving it in a vehicle. Persons behind the “armored” glass can shoot through it, but fire coming from outside can’t penetrate it.
What the Changes Mean
Chief Kushner reports a very good working relationship with the nearby Lake Zurich PD. He worked out an arrangement with them to use their range for training and qualifications. These cooperative arrangements with other area departments have allowed for cost savings and greatly increased the resource pool available to his department.
By using Wauconda for communications and the county CAD, Kushner was able to lessen the cost by not having to purchase his own system. Many departments are taking this approach to resource sharing and purchasing services from other departments to defray expenses. The new facility provides for dedicated interview rooms, and in compliance with Illinois statutes, both will be wired for audio and video recording.
Chief Kushner adopted policy manuals through Lexipol in his continued efforts to present a professional department, foster community trust, and protect the citizens of his Village. Lakemoor set their first eligibility test for July 2012 to meet the state requirements for a village over 5,000.
Chief Kushner plans to keep on improving his department and the move to the new facility included a capital plan for the next three years. Part of that plan includes a new larger server to meet the needs of the Department. They do not yet have a detective unit or tactical team but hope to keep improving.
Lakemoor Village Mayor Todd Weihofen said at one point they were considering disbanding the whole department – the residents distrusted the police, there was officer misconduct, and they were operating out of a donated doublewide in deplorable conditions. “With Bill Kushner, we were fortunate enough to turn things around. The officers chipped in to help to move to the new facility and there has been a big boost in morale. The residents and the community have noticed the positive change and community relationships with the police reflect that.”