Law Enforcement Complex considered a model of excellence

Published 2:55 pm Saturday, May 22, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Niles Law Enforcement Complex is a one of kind facility that is looked at as an example by others in the law enforcement community.
In November, the City of Niles Police Department, Niles Township Police Department and Michigan State Police Niles Post made a monumental step by moving into the shared facility located at 1600 Silverbrook Ave.
On Friday, the agencies held their official community open house for the complex. Members of the community were welcomed to take tours of the facility, view displays from each of the departments and hear a brief ceremony with remarks from city and law enforcement officials regarding the importance and effectiveness of the building thus far.
The 37,712 square-foot complex, which began construction in July 2002, cost approximately $6.5 million.
While each of the departments maintains their own squad rooms and offices, there are also common areas in which all of the departments work side by side. These shared areas include training and meeting rooms, a fitness center, radio rooms and various offices.
First Lieutenant Willie Mays, Michigan State Police Niles Post commander, said the departments were initially all a little bit tentative about moving into the same building.
Mays said the main benefits of the new complex have been improved communication and the sharing of resources and information.
He pointed to two specific examples of when these benefits have come into play and resulted in successful operations.
The first incident was the bank robbery that took place at The Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union in January. The three departments were able to quickly disseminate information about the suspects and their vehicle. By working closely together the departments played a big role in tracking and arresting the suspects.
His second example of collaboration between the departments came earlier this month when the departments worked together to ensure a safe visit to Niles for President Bush. Through cooperation and effective communication the agencies helped to provide security, efficient transportation and crowd control.
Mays mentioned that other cities have tried similar collaborative facilities, but that none have turned out as successful as the Niles complex. He said he has gotten a number of calls from other law enforcement agencies across the Midwest asking how Niles made it work so well.
Niles Township supervisor Bill Myers also spoke at the ceremony and said this unique complex is something that our community should be proud of.
The original concept for the shared complex was conceived over five years ago by retired Michigan State Police Captain Richard Dragomer and retired Berrien County Sheriff Bob Kimmerly.
While investigating a series of breaking and entering cases, they came up with the idea that a central law enforcement building would allow them to improve communication and thus help them to solve crimes more rapidly.
Retired Senator Harry Gast, who was also at speaker at Friday's ceremony, was another person who played a big role in getting the Niles project started. In 2000, Gast was able to secure funding for the pilot project from the Senate Appropriations Committee.
While the facility is a valuable asset to our local law enforcement agencies, many of the speakers at Friday's ceremony agreed that the biggest beneficiary of this complex will be the people of Niles.