Wilton police station is packed to the gills
Every nook and cranny of Wilton Police Department headquarters appears to be filled and bursting at the seams.
With stacks of equipment piled high from floor to ceiling, crammed offices, and desks in tight spaces, including one under a stairwell, the building almost looks like it is inhabited by orderly hoarders.
But it’s not. It’s a fully functional police station and dispatch center, and officers and staff are doing the best they can in a space that is clearly too small for them.
The police station is on the Town Hall Campus at 240 Danbury Road, behind Wilton Town Hall. The cinder block, bunker-style building was built in 1974 for a 25-person, all-male police force. But today, it houses 48 employees (44 officers and four civilian staff), both male and female.
Aware of the station’s overflowing capacity, the town conducted a study in 2016 and the Police-Town Hall Building Committee is planning to either renovate the existing building, including an addition, or build a completely new station with more space.
To give the public and taxpayers a sense of the building and why there is a need for its improvement and expansion, members of the police department conducted tours of the facility on Saturday, Oct. 19, and will be doing them again for the public on Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wilton Police Capt. Thomas Conlan led one of the afternoon tours last Saturday, and explained the building was not only overcrowded but it was also noncompliant with a number of state and federal regulations.
He pointed out a number of deficiencies. The building does not have smoke alarms or sprinklers. It does not have an elevator to the lower level, making the area inaccessible for the disabled. And there are no public restrooms. He also pointed out an indoor shooting range which is not functional because it does not meet OSHA standards.
A look at the dispatch center reveals an overcrowded space, originally designed for one employee, but now accommodating up to five in emergencies. The space is packed with more than 10 computers and 15 monitors, with dangling cords and wires. Behind the computers is a tangled nest of wires near the floor, running the entire dispatch operation. “Those wires really should be housed in a cooler environment,” Conlan said.
He said the building’s HVAC system is inefficient. One part of the building tends to be hot while another is cold. The department uses makeshift vent covers to help control the temperature in some rooms and portable heaters in others where the heat is not working properly.
In 1974, when the facility was built, technology was nowhere near where it is today, and the building is lacking dedicated IT closets and server rooms. So, the department makes use of small closets to house electrical boxes and computer connections. Conlan said one of those closets is so overcrowded technicians sometimes break things while they are making a repair.
While the building’s infrastructure issues may not be so obvious, the facility’s lack of work and meeting space is readily apparent.
Due to the increased number of officers and staff, spaces intended for one function are serving multiple ones. Some of the visible overcrowding problems:
One sergeant’s workstation is in a busy hallway.
Senior officers are doubling up in offices intended for one person.
Five sergeants share one desk in the briefing room/training room.
A patrol officer’s workstation is in the break room.
A storage room has been converted to an office for two school resource officers.
A storage room has been converted to a women’s locker room.
Noncriminal fingerprinting services take place in the same area where criminals are booked and detained.
An interview room doubles as an IT/computer forensic investigation area, requiring frequent movement and relocation of its equipment and furniture.
The Emergency Operations Center also serves as the briefing room, meeting room and training room, requiring frequent movement and relocation of furniture and equipment.
In addition, a desk has been tucked in a tiny space under a stairwell, which serves as the police union’s “office.”
With an interview room converted to an office for two lieutenants, Conlan noted a lack of private space for detectives to conduct interviews with the public.
Overcrowding is also visible in the evidence room, which is so full that an outdoor trailer was purchased for evidence storage. The firearms storage room is also too small and has insufficient shelving and cabinets.
As would be expected, the men’s locker room has become overcrowded, filled with additional lockers as the number of officers has grown over the years. Police shirts are hanging outside the lockers because there is not enough space for each officer’s equipment and uniforms.
A storage room was converted to a women’s locker room, originally for two officers, but now serving five, and also has insufficient space for uniforms and equipment. Neither locker room has windows or a ventilation system.
The list of issues with the building goes on and on, including leaking ceilings, and inadequate cell and garage facilities.