The Riley County Police Department will need a bigger or separate building for operations in the coming years, Director Dennis Butler said Wednesday.
“Our building is at capacity,” Butler said. “That whole building (at 1001 Seth Child Road) could be turned into a correctional and training/communications facility and then administrative functions, patrol and investigations could be moved to another building.”
He made these comments during a special Riley County Law Enforcement Agency meeting at the K-State Research Foundation building off North Manhattan Avenue.
Butler previously said that former walk-in closets are now being used as office space, the department has only one conference room to host training or regional meetings, and parking is limited.
Butler said he doesn’t have immediate plans to make a push for the expansion, but the new building, whether it was renovated or built, would have to be as close as possible to the current department headquarters to ease the transition.
“I think you need to start talking about it, even if it’s three, four years out before a normal push,” he said “It’s something that needs to be addressed at some point. It’s just too small in there.”
The agency, or law board, met Wednesday for a leadership retreat. Butler helped arrange sessions with facilitator John Devine of The Leadership Firm of Salina to allow the board to discuss issues and concerns it has as the department’s governing body, as well as establish a closer connection between members and the command staff.
“Sometimes topics can be raised and discussions can occur where we learn things that can help us do a better job,” Butler said. “It’s those opportunities that I’m trying to flesh out by having Mr. Devine come lead or facilitate discussion. I think part of working better together is getting to know each other better, building those relationships, and understanding where our perspectives are as individuals, as a board and as a command staff. I think we’re accomplishing that. I felt that way after the command staff meeting last week. I felt like we came away from that feeling more comfortable with each other, talking about things that aren’t agenda-driven necessarily.”
During the session, law board members also discussed what RCPD should look like in the future, things RCPD does that it can build on, future opportunities and issues they see that could hinder those efforts.
Linda Morse said she would like to see more training for officers on sensitivity to sexual assault and mental health because it is not always intuitive.
“I know they’re working on mental health and I think we’ve moved along well,” Morse said, referring to RCPD’s recent commitment to a mental health campaign and development of a crisis intervention team. “I want to move that way for sexual assault and rape as we have with mental health.”
Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson said he would also like to see a sexual crime unit made up of both investigative detectives and patrol officers who are specially trained on how to respond and interview victims.
“I don’t see that the trend is going to decrease, but it’s going to increase as far as the types of crimes that are being committed unfortunately,” Wilkerson said. “If you got a drug unit, a sex crimes unit is a higher priority in my opinion. ... Crimes could be investigated more accurately and thoroughly overall.”
Butler said some of the issues are already being worked on. Working groups and committees have been established to review internal policies including diversity and recruitment, nepotism, uniforms and grooming. Employees are currently not allowed to have beards.
“It’s all line level and first line supervisors on those committees who are going to work together and make recommendations to me,” Butler said. “I will have to make the final approval and we’ve got more (groups). My point is while we have to focus on the service we provide, having happy employees who are comfortable with the uniforms they wear, have a beard if they want maybe, go exactly with what we’re talking about.”
While the board came up with several potential ideas to work toward, Devine recommended it narrow the list down to a few simple actions first before tackling larger plans.
Members decided it would try to work on attending ride-alongs with officers and training sessions to better understand RCPD operations, as well as more clearly define the role and responsibilities of the board.
The board and RCPD command staff will come together in October for a joint session to share their viewpoints and what they discussed in their respective meetings.