Pittsfield Police Advisory Brainstorming Funding Sources For New Station
The Police Advisory Committee met with School Resource Officers Karen Kalinowsky and Gary Traversa on Monday. The committee is being given presentations from the city's police divisions. Last month they heard from the narcotics division.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Advisory Committee is beginning the exploratory phase of finding funding sources for a new police station.
Each committee member has now toured the facility on his or her own and agreed on Monday that the city needs a new building.
The first steps are to increase "political advocacy" to position the city first in line when federal funds for police stations are released and think of creative ways to qualify for currently available funding sources.
"What we're looking at is a creative way to say, 'we're going to do something that benefits the area and then meets the needs of a new station but it's not going to come out of the Department of Justice,'" Police Chief Michael Wynn said. "The best advice I was given — and we've gotten help from congressmen — was a Homeland Security facility. If that means I've got to warehouse supplies for DoD and DoJ, that's fine. If I need to include a training facility, that's fine."
He added he would even include a housing component if that meant he could get money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development because there is no grant funding available right now for just police stations.
"The closest we came, and we have to go back four years from now, was when they were bringing out the ARRA money — the reconstruction money — and they specifically earmarked money for new fire station construction but statutorily eliminated police state construction that that time," Wynn said.
A bill was later filed to include police stations but it languished at the committee level. Earmarks are also being eliminated from the federal government so that type of funding is out, too, Wynn said.
The police station is located at 39 Allen St., across from City Hall and the Dunham Mall.
The committee discussed how a new station must also tie in with a lockup and set a meeting to tour the Berkshire County House of Correction to see how the Police Department and the facility work together.
Committee members agreed to start gathering the details of what is needed in a new station and craft a letter to representatives advocating for the station to be high on the list of funding targets in the future. The group hopes to brainstorm proposals for the construction funding to present to the City Council.
In other business, the committee heard a presentation from School Resource Officers Gary Traversa and Karen Kalinowsky, who said the biggest issue they face is getting students to come to them with problems.
Kalinowsky, who is stationed at Reid Middle School, said students don't want to be "snitches" and small problems escalate. A recent poll at the school showed that nearly half of the student body felt there was a bullying problem but the police can't do much about it if they don't know about it.
However, Kalinowsky said outreach efforts of going into classroom and making it clear that she can be approached has proven to increase the number of students coming to her.
Meanwhile, the numbers of criminal instances are rising, said Traversa, who said the school population is a "cross section of the city." With increased crime in the city comes increased crime in the schools.
"The gap is at home," Traversa said when asked what is missing from reducing crime in schools.
Part of the reason students don't come to the officers is because they work for the Police Department and under their statutes prosecute crimes. Many times the administration or the students won't report an incident to avoid going into juvenile court.
"They are police officers who report to the Pittsfield Police Department. They are not disciplinarians who report to the principal," Wynn said.
A major boon for the department in having officers in the school is that they often hear of crimes before they happen or can help detectives solve crimes involving juveniles.
"We've been able to be there before anything happens because of what they hear is schools," Wynn said.
While bullying and youth crimes "make the papers," Kalinowsky said she only has to deal with some 20 of 600 students on a regular basis and a total of only 100 students a year. About 500 students never have the need to encounter the officer, so the schools aren't as bad as some think.
Monday was the committee's third meeting and members are still ironing out details. They agreed to allow a three-minute public comment section in their meetings, elected Larry Tallman as vice chairman and discussed the best ways to word agenda items to give them flexibility in their discussions while making it clear to the public what would be discussed.
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