Demopolis needs new Police Department building

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2005

Those have been some storms the last few days, huh? Makes me glad I work in an office with a good strong ceiling, plenty of space, and sealed windows. It would have been pretty tough making myself go to work Thursday morning, if I knew what awaited me was an already-cramped workspace packed with wastebaskets on desks and in walkways collecting leaked-in rain.

So next time it pours spare a thought, Demopolis residents, for a group of heroic employees who have to face this sad reality every time it rains. Unfortunately, they’re not paper-pushers working for a fly-by-night company cutting costs by operating out of a dilapidated warehouse.

They’re working feverishly, instead, to keep our city clean and its residents safe, in spite of their working conditions. They’re the officers and staff of the Demopolis Police Department.

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I know it might not come as a surprise to many in Demopolis that the Police Department could be in need of some repairs. What may surprise people, though, is how badly they’re needed.

The rook leaks. The ceiling panels have stained brown from the rain. Offices are cramped. Computer and other electrical wiring is in plain sight. It is, unfortunately, just not a pretty picture.

I don’t want to suggest at all that the building is hurting the Department’s ability to protect the city. I haven’t lived here too long, I admit, but I haven’t spoken to a soul who thinks the Demopolis P.D. isn’t fulfilling–or even going beyond–every single last detail of its duties.

But that’s a testament to the heroic dedication of Chief Jeff Manuel and all the Department’s members in the face of trying circumstances, rather than an OK to keep the current status quo. However well they deal with the building situation, when these officers go out every single day and put their life on the line so I can be safe, I have a hard, hard time believing it’s not an insult to the work they do when they step over a rain bucket in the Department hallway.

If you’re thinking “Wow, this sounds like a news story,” well, you’d be thinking the same thing I thought when I heard about the building’s conditions. I spoke with Chief Manuel and Mayor Williamson about the possibility of writing a story, and the mayor helpfully shared with me pictures she had taken of the Department in her efforts to spread the word that the building needed help.

A front-page spread of these pictures was, however, a bridge too far. Chief Manuel and the mayor are, understandably, uncomfortable with the idea of plastering a shot of the Department’s employees struggling to wedge past each other in a small leaky office all over the city. I don’t blame them. If I had been handed the keys to a business with a building like the Department’s, I’d be leery, too, of asking my employees to have their picture taken in that dismal a setting. They’re protecting their own, and I understand and respect that.

That said, the issue is too big for me to keep completely silent about it. The service our policemen and women provide is too vital, their role in preserving our community too great, for them to work in a building that mocks their importance. Something has to be done.

The good news is, things can and are being done. Mayor Williamson has begun speaking out about the problem, and used her recent time in Washington to discuss the issue with Senators Shelby and Sessions.

But, of course, she’ll need help. Demopolis residents need to get in touch with our national and state legislators–Shelby, Sessions, Davis, and Singleton–and tell them we have a problem we need fixed, and soon.

After all, the next round of storms can’t be too far off.