Take a peek inside the new Dartmouth Police Headquarters

Aug 15, 2019

The Dartmouth Police Department’s new headquarters hit a post-construction milestone as work is already underway to make the building ready for a late September move-in date. 

Last week, the new, 20,000 square foot Dartmouth Police Headquarters on Tucker Road was named “substantially complete.” That means all major construction operations are now complete. All that is left from a construction perspective is wrapping up a “punch list” of minor alterations and fixes. 

Blue tape marks areas which need some fine tuning — a door that does not close all the way, or a wall that needs a bit of touch-up work after an electrical outlet was installed. 

“It’s very minor, mostly cosmetic things that need fixing,” said Police Chief Brian Levesque as he walked the halls of the building on August 15. 

Most of the office furniture and new equipment has been delivered and is either in place, or ready to be installed, in the many rooms, offices, and meeting spaces. Town contractors and vendors are also working to install audio visual, security, and camera systems.

It is a controlled, yet hectic, dash to get everything set up for the department to move in on September 24. 

The most complicated step of the move — physically moving and electronically re-routing the town’s 911 system through coordination with the state — will take about four hours, after which point dispatchers will be staffed in the new building taking and routing emergency calls, and the station will officially become the working headquarters. 

“A lot of it is just going to be moving desktop computers and files,” Levesque said of the last-minute moving preparations. “I think the move is going to be pretty good.” 

Once the department moves in, officers will have access to tools and spaces they were forced to part with after the closure of the 249 Russells Mills Road headquarters in 2014 due to contamination in the water supply. Or, in some cases, do without entirely. 

In a secure evidence processing room, officers will now be able to extract fingerprints from objects using a chemical process under a safe fume hood. The old station included a makeshift setup, but since the closure, officers have done without. 

The large, open booking and holding area features several cells separated by vestibules to house adult men, women, and juveniles, and enough space to streamline processing suspects. 

The current police station — a large modular unit — does not include any cells and a cramped booking and processing area, and arrestees are held at the state police barracks and the sheriff’s office. While that process will continue, cells are available in the event of a policy change or transportation issue.

“This was a great opportunity to design a building from the ground up,” Levesque said. 

That is significant, because the department has never had a headquarters to truly call its own until now. The existing 249 Russells Mills Road headquarters was a former town hall converted to police use. 

In 2014, the department shifted operations to modular units nearby after an officer became sick with Legionnaires’ disease. 

A committee initially developed an $8.6 million plan to renovate and rehabilitate the aging former town hall. Town Meeting approved the plan, but voters shot it down in the April 2016 town elections. 

Taking it as a sign that voters wanted a new building, the committee went back to the drawing board for a new design, and a new location. The committee picked the site of the former Job S. Gidley Elementary School on Tucker Road, owing to its central location, and a design doing justice to the original 1923 school. 

Town Meeting members approved the $13.4 million project in June 2017, after voters approved it at the April 2017 town election. Ground was broken on June 26, 2018. 

As for the future, Levesque anticipates the building will serve the police department and the community for the long term. 

Design decisions were made to ensure easy upgrades to accommodate growth. Locker rooms — the most difficult to expand — have more lockers than officers, and an unfinished attic could add 3,000 square feet of office space if needed in the future. 

“It’s a beautiful building,” Levesque said. “It’s well constructed. The building is made to last. This is going to be one of the town’s buildings for a long time to come.” 

Interested in checking out the new police station for yourself? The department is planning to hold an open house on September 22 at 11 a.m. Finalized plans for the open house will be revealed soon, but Levesque anticipates to offer tours and a ribbon cutting.