Informal Meeting with Police Chief Coogan – 13 March, 2009

Informal Meeting with Chief Coogan

Meeting Notes

March 13, 2009

 

Chief Coogan was introduced by Carol Brzeczek who said she and Marty had been disappointed in not hearing more about the police space needs and the option before Council at the Council meeting on March 3rd.  In fact, Marty had asked City Manager Jim Woods to provide us with a copy of the requirements that were used with Option 1-4 and was surprised to learn that he had to contact the consultant for those figures.  It was at that point that the Brzeczeks decided it was time to hear directly from the Chief of Police.  With the approval of City Manager, Jim Woods, Chief Coogan agreed to meet with us and other interested citizens.  She made it clear that she would be able to discuss the needs and functions of the police in relationship to both Options being considered by the Council and she was not an engineer or an architect.  In addition, she stressed the fact that the decision is the Council’s and the Council’s alone to make.  The Brzeczek’s understood her limitations but were still very interested in hearing from her knowing the limits of her knowledge.

 

Chief Coogan (Chief) said the police were not involved in determining the requirements and she was not the Chief in the past so she had no history with what happened on the prior building.  However, she could define the critical functions and what they need and could take a look at both Options to see what they get and what they don’t get.   

 

Looking at the floor plan for the Mineral building she said the departments have been located adjacent to each other in a logical manner to maximize efficiency. 

 

Question:  The police are sitting on each other’s laps now – how many square feet do you occupy now?

 

Chief:  When the building was new the police occupied 21,000 square feet.  It was reduced to 18,000 and according to a report by a few citizens in 2006 the police now occupy about 15,000 square feet.

 

Chief went on to explain the layout of Option 5.  She said the police need at least 70 parking spaces – it is one of the issues that Option 1 does not solve.  Option 1 would result in the loss of parking.  She would like to have K-9 kennels – whether or not it is a need or a want is questionable.  However, the cost of providing kennels for the dogs at the officer’s homes was about $1,200 each and the funds were donated by the Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

 

As to the offices – right now there’s 1 Lt. and 2 Sgts. to each office in each patrol.

 

Question:  Are they all there at the same time? 

 

Chief:  When the shifts overlap they would be in the office at the same time and that also adds to the parking problem.  Wednesday is the training day when everyone is there.  The SET team consists of 8 members and 2 Sgts. and they are in a very small room with no room for file cabinets, desks, or chairs for everyone.

 

Question:  Is it an impossible situation?

 

Chief:  It is terrible.  There is no place for officers to sit and talk to a victim.  But, we do make it work.

 

Question:  Why change if it works?

 

Chief:  It is not working.  To have good supervision the supervisor needs to be able to talk with those he or she supervises and there is no privacy.

 

Question:  Is that a need or a want?

 

Chief – It is a need

 

Citizen Comment:  I had to go in and talk with the police and had to meet with them in the hallway.

 

Chief:  My measure of the service we deliver is how would I feel if it was my daughter or my mother?

 

Question:  Aren’t there several ways to solve that problem – a conference room?

 

Chief said there was no private place to meet – there is one holding area in the hallway that we sometimes use.  It is sort of an all-purpose room for victims, juveniles, and reporting parties.

 

The officer’s carry duty bags have gotten bigger and bigger over the years.  I bought duty bag lockers for them last year.  They are in the back hallways by the back door, across from the evidence counter.  The hallways are very crowded – so crowded that two officer’s cannot pass each other without turning.  The back door is where prisoners are brought in and there is the possibility of endangering the evidence processing as they walk through the area to the Investigations Section.  We would take those lockers over to the Mineral building to save money.  We also can’t place juveniles in holding cells for status offences.  We need an area for holding juveniles.  Status offenses are Curfew and Runaway.

 

Question:  What would the police department like or is there an Option 6?

 

Chief – We did look at the sheriff’s building.  There are lots of small offices, lush carpets, wood floors and glass walls.  The glass walls would have to come down.  There are no large rooms and access from Bemis to Littleton Blvd is next to impossible.  We don’t know if the community would tolerate the traffic generated either.

 

Question:  The question is irresponsible to ask.  But another citizen asked for the Chief’s response.

 

Chief said she was in a tough spot.  The Mineral building has solutions she does not see in the other option.

 

Question:  Is it too far from downtown Littleton?

 

Chief:  No, the police are not in the building; they are located on the streets of the City waiting for the calls for service. 

 

When the City Center was new we had a staff of 51 – we now have double that amount and have 15,000 square feet.  We have 320 visits per year by sex offenders coming to register and they are walking around the City Center – maybe 5 per week.  That issue can’t be resolved by Option 1.  The Mineral option is a very good solution on many levels but the decision is City Council’s to make. 

 

The Dispatch Center is not considered in Option 1 and they are on top of each other.  There is a possibility that the E911 authority would help to move the dispatch to Mineral.  We would explore that option.

 

Question:  Since there is too much space at the Mineral building who would you find to be an appropriate tenant with the police?

 

Chief:  Whoever it is it would be easy to segregate but a government function makes sense.

 

Question:  There’s a lot of excess square feet for lease or sale in Littleton, is it possible to have a lease with an option to buy?

 

Chief said she had not been part of those discussions. 

 

Chief continued with the review of the floor plan.  The evidence area is huge and we would not use all of it in the beginning.  The law continues to get more specific about how we keep evidence.  If you have a serious crime in Littleton today we would have to take the evidence somewhere else.

 

Evidence storage in Option 1 uses an expensive rolling shelving system and in Option 5 we would use industrial shelving with chain link fencing which would reduce the costs of evidence storage.

 

We could purchase gun storage from Dick’s or somewhere similar.

 

We do not have a crime lab now.  There are very specific ways to handle evidence.  You need drying tables for blood and bio-secure areas.  We need a room for the defense and prosecutors to view the evidence and for it to be released.

 

Question:  Where do you handle it now?

 

Chief:  We have the people to do it but not the space.  We can use the Quonset hut or have Arapahoe County do it for us.  Sometimes we pay to have it done.  There is a huge risk with contamination of evidence when you have to transport it from one location to another.

 

Question:  Do you have the people to staff the lab?

 

Chief said they do and that they have just had 2 of their people asked by the State to teach other crime lab technicians at a week long class.

 

Question:  Is that included in Option 1?  (Referring to the evidence lab area in Option 5)

 

Chief said it is included but the Patrol Operations area is not.

 

Question:  If you had an evidence lab would you need to hire additional staff?

 

Chief:  No, we have the people and right now they are working on a counter with a 6 foot long table.

 

Question:  What are the Federal and State standards for evidence – what is mandatory?

 

Chief said there really aren’t Federal or State standards – the standards are really set by Court decisions.  CALEA says what you must accomplish, but it doesn’t tell you how.  The Court sets standards all the time relating to the tagging of evidence and the chain of custody of evidence and storage.

 

Question:  If you have to store the whole mattress as evidence how do you store the evidence such as blood on the floor?

 

Chief said through pictures, samples and they talk to the DA about what to do and the DA will give the police guidance and they will hold onto the evidence until the DA says it can be disposed.  Now the Court has decided that they will no longer keep all the evidence in cases – they are returning it to the police so the day will come when we fill the evidence storage.

 

Question:  Is this a want or a need?

 

Chief said it was a need in order to be able to handle a case properly.

 

Question:  But, that is what we are doing now.

 

Chief said that is why the Council has agreed evidence storage is a critical need to be addressed.

 

Question:  Is 8,000 square feet what you need for evidence storage – if not – what do you need?  (This person was looking at the differences in floor space for evidence storage between Option 1 and Option 5.)

 

Citizen said you can’t compare the two side by side as Option 1 uses a rolling shelving system and Option 5 uses industrial shelving.  The rolling shelves are expensive but take up less floor space.

 

Question:  Do you have to keep evidence for the life of the criminal?

 

Chief said they still have the vehicle from the Rhonda Holland murder and they just released the vehicle from the Prince and Santa Fe accident. 

 

Chief continued on the floor plan for Option 5 explaining the volunteer offices.  They have volunteers that want to help but there really isn’t a place for them in the current location. 

 

A CALEA office – they need space for files etc.  There is a space for Victim Services – a want or a need?  Currently there is no place for victims and she would like to have a room for the victims of crimes with a couch and some toys for the children – this is common-place in the industry. 

 

The water and bathrooms would have to be addressed in the Mineral building.  Currently victims have to use the public facilities at the City Center – when the City Center was built there was a different attitude towards victims of crimes.  Today attitudes toward victims have changed.

 

The training room – Chief would like to host training that would offset the price of Littleton’s training.  Currently they are using a room at the Services Center which will hold up to 40 people but there isn’t enough parking.

 

They need public and private restrooms and the only restrooms at the Mineral building are located at the front of the building on each floor so that is something that would need to be included in any remodeling.

 

The investigation area is a need.  The officer’s current cubicles are 6 x 6 – there is no privacy, no room for a chair, and you can’t have a private phone call.  The computer that the cops use for child porn can’t be in public view – they need a private room – you don’t want to re-victimize the child.  Right now the Crime Analyst sits in a closet – the door had to be removed to make the office space out of the closet. 

 

In Option 5 there is space for the Major Crime Coordination and a conference room.  When they were looking at the Bowling Alley cold case they had to rent space at Aspen Grove in order to work the cold case for a month.  The Chief sees this as a must have.

 

As far as furniture goes, they would take what they are using with them and get what else they needed at close-out furniture places – there are some great bargains out there now.

 

She said the Mineral building is in pretty nice shape as is – it doesn’t need paint or carpet and the offices are usable.  It is wired for computer use.

 

Question:  Comment was made about Jim Collins’ suggestion that the police regionalize and the option that was poorly handled by a previous council – wouldn’t a free standing new police building be better than Mineral?

 

Chief said regionalization was not even under consideration and the building referred to was rejected by the voters.  There is $6 million and 2 options under consideration and you couldn’t build the rejected building for $6 million – she never got the impression that it was an option.

 

Question:  If we limit ourselves to Options 1 and 5 – 1 doesn’t offer the same uses as 5.

 

Question:  Is the City aware of the gained space with Option 5?  The response was voiced by citizens that the City indeed knows – they have the floor plans.

 

Chief reviewed what she saw as necessary to move into the Mineral building.  They are:

 

            A Generator

            Security System for the building

            Phone System

            Records Window (this refers to a window cut into a wall to request records)

            Parking lot needs resurfacing and fencing

            Mineral exit from secured parking

            Patrol Entrance/Exit into the Building (this refers to cutting a space for a door so                                    the patrol officers have their own entrance and exit from their parking                                area)

           

She would like to have:

 

            Kennels

            Garage for the Command van/SWAT vehicle which is now stored at the Services                                  Center which would free up space for vehicle evidence storage.

 

Chief said she has requested the documentation of the review of the building that FEMA conducted before they moved in to the Mineral building on the three different occasions that they occupied the building.

 

Another problem solved by Option 5 but not Option 1 – the traffic bureau consisting of 6 officers and a sergeant and all their personal and police vehicles as well as all the school resource officer’s vehicles would be located with the rest of the department rather than offsite at the Services Center which they are currently doing..

 

There was also a discussion about what happens to operations of the City Center if the train were to derail adjacent to the building and have a toxic leak of some sort.  The answer is that everyone would have to vacate the building which includes fire, police and dispatch.  This is one reason why FEMA approved the use of the building on Mineral – they cannot be located next to a railroad track and often respond to railroad disasters.

 

Question:  Is there anything not resolved by the Mineral building?

 

The Chief said no.

 

Citizen Comment:  This person did not see the issue with the sex offenders walking around at the City Center as did a couple of other citizens. 

 

Chief said she did not think they would commit a crime in the City Center but they may follow people home.  This is an issue in the City – the police are buying the technology that will allow them to read license plates which can be linked to outstanding warrants etc.  The school district is in support of this for the purpose of identifying sex offenders – they contributed $7,500 to help pay for the technology.

 

Citizen:  This person said they didn’t see the sex offender issue as a make or break argument for one Option or the other.  One item of cost that has not been included in Option 1 was the additional parking that was requested by Jim Taylor and the additional 2,000 square feet for the Emergency Command Operations was not part of the price tag for Option 1.  What did concern this citizen is a process that did not include the police in determining how much space they needed and what they needed it for.  Where did the 14,000 square feet for Option 1 come from?

 

Chief said she was not part of it – she thought it was the result of what has happened in the past.

 

Citizen:  This person thought the 14,000 square feet was based on the needs as identified by McClaren and from a citizen’s report in 2006.

 

Citizen:  This person thought the parking problem could be resolved by building up.  He thought the police services were very critical to the City and it is important to provide them good working conditions.

 

Chief said we have wonderful officers and said Littleton will be receiving $36,000 of the stimulus money which is based on crime levels.  Littleton with a population of 40,000 has 30 part 1 crimes per year which got us $36,000 of the stimulus money.  Englewood, with 32,000 population had 300 part 1 crimes per year and they are receiving $134,000 of the stimulus money.

 

Citizen Comment:  The Littleton Police Department is a good police department – that is the reputation and the perception out there.

 

Citizen Comment:  In the 2 years that Chief Coogan has been on the job in Littleton we have not lost an officer.  The OEC report stated that we had a 10%-15% turnover prior to her arrival.  Her leadership has saved the City thousands of dollars.

 

Citizen:  It would make a better story if they left due to bad facilities!

 

Question:  If we take the supervisors out of the equation, what would the patrol officers want?

 

Chief said locker rooms (they drive them nuts now), a larger roll call room, the fact that if there is a SWAT call they have to go to the Service Center to map out their plan because there isn’t room at the City Center to do it.  They want room to train, and the lack of supervisors’ rooms is an issue to them.  Detectives want room to do their jobs.

 

Chief said that for the departments monthly supervisors’ meetings they have to go to the Courthouse because as there is no other place to get the entire department supervisors altogether in one place consistently.

 

Citizen Comment:  There is a quote that is out there from you (Coogan) from the 2008 workshop – you did not need more room; you just needed the three Ts.

 

Chief said she could not go to the Council with six months on the job and tell them to spend $20 million but that was not the whole context – she said that there were some problems that could be fixed with less money such as the evidence issue that was on the table already.

 

Citizen Comment:  This person said if the Chief, after only 6 months on the job and with a new Council, would have gone in with a list of everything they needed would have been questionable with such limited experience as Chief.  Instead, the Chief went into Council and said this is what I need now.

 

Chief said she has mitigated some of the problems.

 

Citizen:  Without a doubt you need more space – how much space you need versus how much space you want – where’s the happy medium?  Why do you need a report writing room with all the other offices?

 

The Chief said they needed a place for the uniform officers to write their reports – they don’t have a desk.

 

Question:  Would the first floor be big enough?

 

Chief said she has looked at that but would not know what to do about dispatch – you could use part of the training room for dispatch.

 

Question:  How many years would that work?

 

Chief said the first floor of Option 5 is about the same space as Option 1 without the parking.   If she had her druthers she would take the first floor– we will make whatever work without any whining.

 

Citizen:  Comment that the IT bunch is not on the 2nd floor –

 

Chief said she only addressed the police functions.

 

Question:  What does it do to the tax rolls?  A citizen said the current property taxes on the building are $70,000 per year for all the taxing districts.  The City receives 10% of that, $7,000.

 

Citizen Comment:  The train derailment and the impact it would have on the City Center was new information.

 

Citizen asked about the Spotswood building.  Another citizen said she had heard it would take $2 million to remodel that building and there wasn’t very much parking available at that site.

 

Chief said she is in a tough position.  She was hired to be the Chief of Police and how could she not advocate for what the police need…..but there is a political reality.

 

Citizen said these are bad economic times but opportunities present themselves in these times.  We need to seriously consider this if we can financially do it.  Our officers respect this community and we need to respect them.

 

Note: The Chief wanted to clarify that the locker rooms are a requirement on the second floor for all the employees.  The area to the west of them is important for the use of other functions that have been identified.

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One Response

  1. Once again thank you for taking time to post this discussion. I was not able to attend. Thank you also to Chief Coogan, ever professional, and thoughtful.
    Norm

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