New office for public safety improves functionality, accessibility
Parkland’s police has a new home in the A Wing, which Chief of Police William Colbrook says allows the force to better serve the college community.
The new office is located on the first floor of the A Wing, a major thoroughfare between the college center and the Student Union. This strategic placement increases public safety’s visibility and accessibility to those who may need their services.
“Perhaps back in the day, X109 was at a good location,” Colbrook said. “Being here, we’re actually more accessible to the students, faculty, and staff than we were at X109.”
X109 refers to the force’s old office space, on the first floor of the X Wing. It was once across from the bookstore, but following the move of the bookstore and other student-oriented services to the Student Union, the main stretch of the X Wing has become a less-travelled area.
Colbrook repeatedly stressed the size of the new space, saying it is a welcome change from the cramped, inefficient X109.
“Literally, everybody was on top of each other,” he said. “We’ve over doubled our floor space, which gives us a lot more functionality in what we do. As a department in Parkland College…we’ve got very unique challenges for us to do our job effectively.”
The plans for a new office had been in the works for several years. Colbrook himself worked with the architect to draw up the space to accommodate his department as best as possible. The purpose-built design is a marked departure from X109, which was an already-existing space which public safety was moved into.
“That space…it was, ‘here you go, Public Safety, here is where you’re now going to be,’” Colbrook said of the move to X109 from the force’s office from time immemorial on the second floor of the X Wing. “This space was actually designed by myself and the architect…and we laid out the floor plan specific for our function.”
A wheelchair turned out to be one of the force’s greatest Achilles heels in navigating X109. With everyone already practically on top of each other and available space being a resource in short supply, they had nowhere to put the wheelchair they use for public assistance, forcing them to place it more or less as a centerpiece to their room.
Now, the wheelchair has a spacious, cozy home in the office’s medical room. The specialized, made-to-order room gives public safety better capability in performing the key function of being first responders to medical emergencies on campus.
When designing the office, the architect was able to wall off a formerly public hallway that included restrooms, converting them into private facilities for the force. Colbrook says the change is more important than one might first think.
“If you’ve never been a policeman, you don’t understand the critical nature of having our own bathroom,” Colbrook said. “If nature calls, we cannot simply just lay our gun down anywhere we want…we have to have a private space.”
Yet another issue with X109 was a lack of spaces specialized for police work, such as a dedicated room for interviewing or questioning. The old office’s conference room inadequately served the many functions of a meeting space, break room, radio room, mail room, and dining hall, in addition to being the force’s makeshift interview room. The new office now has its own interview room and other spaces that take the load off the encumbered conference room.
While X109 had separate rooms public safety used for evidence and armaments storage respectively, the new office provides storage spaces that are concrete brick-lined and contain armored, fireproof safes. In the event of an explosion or fire, any evidence collected by the force would be protected from damage and their ammunition stores would not go off.
Again focusing on the improved functionality the new office provides, Colbrook pointed out that each officer now has their own designated computer space in a large room. Command staff, namely the force’s sergeants and directors, have their own private offices. This was not the case in X109.
“Oncoming shifts…would have to stand around until the other officer got off the computer,” Colbrook said.
Most noticeable to passerbys is the large pane of glass separating the dispatcher from the hallway, a feature the old office lacked. The bullet-resistant glass is meant to protect the unarmed, civilian dispatcher from a potential shooter.
Colbrook does not view the glass as putting up a barrier between the police force and the law-abiding public or being detrimental to their accessibility.
“In no way, shape, or form are we trying to separate ourselves,” he said.
Colbrook placed emphasis on his view that Public Safety is more capable of performing their services in their new office.
“We serve our clientele better in this space,” Colbrook said.