MIDDLEBORO — Tuesday was day two at the new home of the Middleborough Police Department, and while the day was met with generally good vibes and plenty of smiling faces, the overall mood was tinged with a lingering sense of disorientation.
By that, we mean, everything is great, just not quite real, as Middleborough Police Chief Joe Perkins and the MPD officers repeated during The Middleboro Gazette’s first visit to the fully operational Middleborough Police Station Dec. 4.
“The transition was successful,” Perkins said. “We’re still working out a few computer issues ... but that doesn’t affect operations. That’s more for administration.
“We’ve already had our first arrest. The booking went smoothly. The process is so much improved than the old location. It seems to be going well ... just as planned.”
The work to slowly close out operations at the now former station on Main Street and move its contents to the department’s new home at 350 Wood St. proceeded in waves: first, documents and administrative materials; then systems and computer hardware; and finally, just this past weekend, equipment, weapons, ammunition and evidence were moved and secured.
“The transition was good,” Perkins said, with a smile of relief, perhaps disbelief.
“No one here had ever done it before, so we learned on the fly, and I couldn’t be more impressed or happy with the membership of the department, all willing to help — the command staff, the lieutenants, especially Lt. Robert Ferreira ... who just did an amazing job coordinating operations. It was a big undertaking and I think we nailed it."
And they were on schedule, too.
“On Monday at 9:50 a.m., everything was in place and we literally flipped the switch,” Perkins said.
The new facility looks like a proper police station from the road, and inside, it is spacious in ways unimaginable to anyone who has ever worked at or visited the Main Street facility — at the risk of continued insult to the Peirce Building, its reuse now a budding debate for local officials and residents. (See more on those developments in Dan Schemer’s story on A4.)
With a 10,000-square-foot upgrade over the former station, everything and everyone has a place, with plenty more room to grow. There are dedicated rooms for file storage, administrative staff and report writing, and offices for ranking staff. Men’s and women’s locker rooms with roomy lockers, showers and multiple toilets — there was one working toilet at the old station — get high marks from the staff.
For the staff, appreciation of the creature comforts cannot be overstated, and even so, they admit, it will take some getting used to.
“The atmosphere in the offices... It’s kind of nice to see, but they still don’t understand that this is where they work now. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” Perkins said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house the Saturday before Thanksgiving gave the public a chance to see the new station, which came with a nearly $10 million price tag, “in pristine condition,” said Perkins, and uncluttered by the move-in work that he suspects will continue for a while.
Detective Sgt. Kris Dees and Detective Allan Cunningham were still unpacking and getting settled on Tuesday morning.
“I’m pumped. Welcome to the modern world,” Cunningham said.
Dees said he’s still getting used to the idea that multiple bathroom facilities are available throughout the building, and quickly summoned the theme of the day: It's still sinking in and it’ll take some getting used to.
“To be honest with you, you’d probably be better off talking to us and asking these questions about this six months from now,” he said. “Right now it’s so new, and we’ve been dealing with such squalor for so long. It’s difficult to wrap your head around it.”
The chief gets it.
“It’s a happy apprehension. It’s, ’Great, we’re in a new place, but wow, we gotta learn all these new things,' so there will be a bit of a learning curve,” he said.
“I think that’s one of the things where that reality part hasn’t set in. After working in the conditions they were working in, they adjusted to them and they accepted them and it’s, ‘Why are we doing it that way?’ And, well, we’re doing it that way because we have to do it that way; that’s what we have. Now, we’re in a new station where we can do it the right way and see, ‘Oh, this is how it’s supposed to be done.'”
That is most apparent when it comes to prisoner intake.
The new sallyport to the rear of the building allows for the private and secure intake and processing of prisoners. It wasn’t so at the old station.
“Night and day,” said Lt. Gregory Trask, who went on to describe the old way of doing things.
“We were bringing them in the front door, and if we had an agitated prisoner we were bringing them through the garage, which was totally not what we should have been doing. This just makes life that much easier ... and safer, safer for everybody: the public, for us, the prisoners. It’s a nice improvement and one needed in this day and age, for sure.”
As for the rest of it?
“I love it. I spent 16 years in the old station, so this is great,” Trask said.
Trask said the old station was entirely inadequate, and he’s happy he doesn’t have to go back.
“You could see the curtains move when the wind blew. Now, this place is state-of-the-art. Everything came out great. I don’t have a single complaint ... but it’s only our second day.”