NEWS

Officials: New City Hall police substation boosts security, provides 'welcoming presence'

By DANIEL A. KITTREDGE
Posted 2/24/21

By DANIEL KITTREDGE Visitors to City Hall will now find a new look at the building's front entrance. The leadership of the Cranston Police Department, along with Mayor Ken Hopkins and other city officials, gathered Monday morning to mark the opening of a

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NEWS

Officials: New City Hall police substation boosts security, provides 'welcoming presence'

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Visitors to City Hall will now find a new look at the building’s front entrance.

The leadership of the Cranston Police Department, along with Mayor Ken Hopkins and other city officials, gathered Monday morning to mark the opening of a new police substation within the seat of city government – a move that is being pitched as helping to enhance the building’s security while providing easier access to police services for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This continues to be the commitment that we’ve made to public safety in our neighborhoods, to providing great access to our Police Department on the eastern side of the city, to increasing relationships between our residents and the policemen and women of the Cranston Police Department,” Hopkins said during a brief ceremony, which was streamed via Facebook Live.

“We’re very proud of the new substation,” Chief of Police Col. Michael Winquist said.

Inspector Thomas Okolowitcz will staff the substation, which will be open during regular business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Hopkins said the opening of the substation was done at “little or no cost to the city,” as it has been outfitted with equipment from police headquarters on Garfield Avenue.

The new substation is the Police Department’s third, joining other facilities at Hall Manor in Edgewood and Knightsville Manor.

In a press release, officials said the new site isfully connected to the department’s databases and be “equipped to handle or direct any type of service call.”

The release continues: “The substation will serve as a location for the police department to conduct community outreach, as well as enhance security for the building and the employees. This officer will also be responsible if needed to transport the Mayor outside the city at events he determines that enhanced security is needed. More importantly when the public visits City Hall and has any type of complaint relating to police services, they will not have to be referred to the police department because the officer will be on site. This will enhance interactions with the public, security and provide a more efficient level of service, never available before.”

Hopkins and Winquist on Monday said the placement of the City Hall subdivision stemmed from a public safety report prepared as part of the new mayor’s transition effort. One aspect of that, the mayor said, involved asking Winquist to specifically review City Hall security. He likened the process to what Cranston Public Schools has done at its neighboring administrative offices in the Briggs building.

Winquist said the department’s Special Reaction Team performed a “physical security assessment” of City Hall and “made various recommendations of how to enhance security while making sure that the citizens had freedom to access the services here at City Hall.”

He added: “Every so often, it’s an older building, we reassess security here … We saw some opportunities to enhance security, some that are very visible, like the substation, some that aren’t so visible that are behind the scenes.”

Winquist said recent events in other parts of the country, including the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., were a factor in pursuing security improvements at the building.

“As of late, all of you know that many public buildings across the nation have been targeted by individuals seeking to enact violence against the government, its employees, and elected officials, and the public at large,” he said. “Having a uniformed officer on site, combined with added security measures, will serve as a strong deterrent to anyone continuing such actions here.”

Asked if there were any more specific threats or factors at play locally, he added: “There was no specific credible threat, but in general, we saw what happened at the Capitol – don’t want to compare that exactly to what we’re doing here, but we know that people that want to do harm look for soft targets. Public buildings are symbolic.” He said the security upgrades will help protect the large workforce within City Hall.

Aside from the security element of the new substation, Hopkins and Winquist sought to highlight its role in the department’s approach to community outreach.

Winquist said Okolowitcz, as part of his duties, “will encourage dialogue between the police and the community we proudly serve.”

“We wanted to strike that balance,” he said. “We wanted a visible presence here, but we also wanted it to be a welcoming presence where citizens can come in and interact with a police officer. I think the substation accomplishes both of those goals – our community outreach efforts, as well as increasing the security here at City Hall.”

He added: “Having us here rather than going to 5 Garfield is a lot easier for people.”

Hopkins said the new substation is “designed to be welcoming, not intimidating.”

“It’s good for the people of the city. We have a commitment to reaching out to the community … This is an opportunity for us to take our Police Department and reach out to this area,” he said.

He added: “We’ll look at it and see how it works … But everything I’ve seen so far has been positive.”

Hopkins said the new substation is also part of a larger physical improvement process at City Hall, which will involve cleaning the first floor as well as painting and other work on the third floor.

“This is to fulfill a promise that I made during my campaign to clean up City Hall,” he said. “Now, I mean that literally, not figuratively … This will be a continuing process.”

Winquist on Monday additionally sought to highlight the Police Department’s ongoing recruitment process, for which applications are being accepted through March 8.

“We have over 250 applications of very diverse backgrounds thus far, and we have a few more weeks left,” he said.

Winquist said the department currently has two vacancies, and a third position will become open in July. The list of recruits is typically used for hiring over one to two years, he said, meaning the list being developed now could ultimately be used to hire six or seven new officers.

Winquist thanked Reynaldo Almonte of Latino Public Radio, who was on hand to cover Monday’s event, for his assistance in conducting outreach regarding the recruitment drive.

“He’s been instrumental in helping us get the word out,” the chief said.

Additional information regarding the recruitment drive is available at www. cranstonpoliceri.com.

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