Hartford Police Department says it’s outgrown current headquarters

  • Hartford Police Chief Gregory Sheldon, speaks to a gathering hosted by the Hartford Community Coalition about his approach to policing substance abuse at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction, Vt., on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Sheldon, in his second week with the department, questioned the practice of sending police officers on non-violent drug calls and proposed hiring a community resource specialist to help connect people with resources for recovery. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Community Service Officer Brandon Dyke, back right, talks with Hartford Police Officer Tom Lyman while filing a report at the Hartford Police Department Thursday, June 26, 2014. Dyke works alongside Hartford police, including officers Mark McComas, left front, and Eric Clifford, right front, but holds a civilian position in which he is responsible for animal control, civil applicant finger printing, solid waste investigations, and parking enforcement. The Hartford Select Board voted Tuesday not to eliminate the position of Community Service Officer Brandon Dyke who handles animal control, civil applicant finger printing, solid waste investigations, and parking enforcement. Dyke works at the Hartford police station Thursday, June 26, 2014. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Brandon Dyke, upper right, the Hartford Police Department’s community service officer, is considered a civilian, but he works alongside police officers such as, clockwise from lower right, Eric Clifford, Mark McComas and Tom Lyman. Dyke is responsible for animal control, fingerprinting services, solid waste investigations and parking enforcement.Valley News — James M. Patterson James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2023 8:38:16 PM
Modified: 9/26/2023 8:37:33 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Deputy Police Chief Connie Kelley, now in her 24th year with the Hartford Police Department, said the town police headquarters feels much like a first home. But like many families, the occupants have outgrown their abode.

During her tenure, Kelley has seen numerous reconfigurations of the department to accommodate growth. In some cases, department administrators shared offices. The armory currently doubles as a space to store uniforms, as well as bulk cleaning supplies.

“We … have no place to process evidence or drugs,” Kelley said in an interview on Monday. “We literally do it in our squad room on a shelf.”

With the recent hire of a patrol officer and a records clerk, the department is reconfiguring space once more to make room for new personnel.

But the game of musical chairs needs to come to an end, Chief Gregory Sheldon told the Selectboard at a Sept. 19 meeting, and that police department needs a larger space in which to operate.

“We’ve outgrown it,” Sheldon told board members. “We are currently shuffling people around again, making some moves to make it work for us with (new staff) coming in … but we’re running out of space. It just doesn’t work well for us anymore.”

In an interview on Monday, Sheldon said the department will be seeking a town appropriation between $50,000 to $75,000 to fund a space-needs assessment — a study to determine what type of facility will serve the department’s needs and projected growth over the next several decades and how much it will cost to build it.

“We’re looking at building a 50-year building,” Sheldon said. “This isn’t something that we’re only planning on for 10 or 20 years.”

The current building, constructed in 1989, is part of a town facility that houses the Hartford Fire Department and the communications dispatch — which provides contracted emergency dispatch services to neighboring communities in addition to Hartford, including Norwich and Windsor.

Sheldon said the department would like to have a “community room” — a multipurpose room to meet with the public or with community partners, such as the community safety coalition that the town is considering forming.

Sheldon said policing works best when the community and police department are integrated and working collaboratively. The department should have a space in its building to maximize those opportunities to interact.

While the present facility has a multipurpose space upstairs, Kelley said it is usually occupied for training by the police or fire department.

“Our social worker mentioned this morning to us that they don’t have a confidential place (in the building) to talk to someone,” Kelley said. “They said if they need to make a confidential phone call, they have to go outside and walk around the parking lot. They also have no (other) place to meet with a family.”

The interview room, where investigating officers meet with suspects, victims or witnesses, is small, cramped and uncomfortable, Kelley noted. The space barely accommodates two individuals and is dark, drab and uninviting. Victims and witnesses have to sit next to a bar that is used to handcuff an arrested suspect to the wall.

“If you’re interviewing somebody who’s a victim, you would like a place that is a little bit more comfortable,” Kelley said. “I’m not talking like cushy chairs, but just an environment that is not cold.”

Sheldon said they would like to acquire the funding for the study as soon as possible. Though the department’s capital improvement plan targets the study for next fiscal year — which would begin July 1, 2024 — Sheldon said he would not rule out asking the Selectboard to appropriate funds this year.

Once the study provides a cost quote for the proposed facility, the department will seek town approval of a bond to fund the construction. The question could be placed on the town warrant for voter consideration in March 2025, according to the department plan.

Sheldon said the projected project cost is unknown. Though the capital improvement plan cited an estimated cost of $6 million, Sheldon said the department believes the actual cost may be much higher, though the quote will also depend on the design and size of the facility.

For example, Sheldon noted the cost will differ greatly depending on whether the communications dispatch moves to the new facility or remains in the existing building, since it will be expensive to transfer the building’s digital infrastructure.

The study will also need to determine a new location in town that could house a facility. The current building, located on VA Cutoff Road, is not designed to allow a new level of construction on top of it, and the property has no additional land to expand outward, Sheldon said.

Kelley said if a new building is constructed, the Hartford Fire Department would likely expand their operation into the police building.

The Hartford Police Department is currently staffed with three command officers — including Sheldon and Kelley — along with 12 patrol officers, two criminal investigators, 13 emergency dispatchers and a social worker. Two criminal investigator positions and about four patrol officer positions are unfilled.

Sheldon said he also wants to hire community resource officers, a civilian position that handles non-emergency or non-criminal calls.

Community resource officers, which are used in cities like Burlington, are intended to relieve the call burden on sworn police officers so they can focus on criminal cases or crisis situations.

“When you consider that about 80-85% of calls in law enforcement are non-criminal cases, that means our officers are only responding 50% of the time to criminal cases,” Sheldon said. “So we want to minimize what (our sworn officers) respond to and give them the opportunity to do other work (such as) criminal activities or patrolling.”

Sheldon added that many people involved in non-criminal calls may be more comfortable talking to a civilian rather than a uniformed police officer.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy