BY HARRISON CANN — The Hyattsville City Police Department held an open house for its new building, and has also added four new officers to address staffing shortage.
The open house on Oct. 11 introduced the plans for a new police department, which will be able to accommodate a larger force and community events, said Councilmember Erica Spell (Ward 5). As for the current needs of the force, Lt. Chris Purvis said that four new officers graduated from the police academy Oct. 12.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to optimize full strength,” Purvis said. “It’s probably been about eight years.”
The size of the department in Hyattsville is one of the main concerns with retaining officers long-term. Spell said she hopes the new department project, which is the single largest investment the Hyattsville City Council has supported, will send a message.
“We are participating [in] and supporting the idea of our police force growing with [the city],” Spell said. She said the budget for the project is somewhere between $8 and $10 million, and it is expected to open by 2020. The building will also include areas for public use, allowing for more community events and interaction between the police and citizens.
Renee Smith, who has been a Hyattsville resident for about 20 years, said the building isn’t enough. “They can build a new police station but if they don’t get out to the community then what’s the use?” Smith asked. She said there needs to be more outreach and officers on the streets “talking to us and letting us know that they’re there.”
New officers have to go through 400 hours of field training after graduating from the police academy before they can be on the streets. “They do want us to be on foot or on cycles,” Purvis said. “We hope that we can do that once these officers go through field training.”
Spell said that the city is working on the promotion of crime watch and citizen organizations in order to make up for the police force’s personnel gap. She said there are more school, church and other citizen organizations getting involved to create a “holistic approach to policing” and she’d love to see that continue.