Just the presence of a police station can make a community or neighborhood safer, regardless of what's inside it. The modern-day cop is equipped with a laptop computer, cell phone and cameras for collecting evidence--all devices that allow him to perform most duties from the patrol car. Still, the face-to-face communication with colleagues, criminals and the public that can only happen at a police station is a vital part of public safety.
Many people still make in-person complaints at the police station rather than calling them in. In these situations, concerned citizens can bring evidence with them (a vandalized car, for example) and talk to an officer immediately rather than waiting for someone to come to them. Larger cities have always had precincts in different neighborhoods in addition to a centralized headquarters. But with the growth of community policing initiatives, even medium-sized city departments and suburban departments have opened satellite offices to establish a stronger rapport with the public. According to Policing.com, interacting with a community is a key part of protecting it, and officers cannot get the job done by spending most of their time in patrol cars.
In metropolitan areas, police stations are strategically located for stronger coverage and faster response times. In rural areas, a state police troops and county sheriff's departments establish barracks or substations in towns that don't have their own police department. A small station may have limited hours for the public, but it provides a location where officers can complete reports and process evidence without removing themselves from their coverage area.
Vehicles, Equipment, Employees
Patrol car fleets are parked, maintained and often serviced at the station. A station, depending on the size of the department it serves, might also have an evidence locker, uniform area, weapons and ammunition room, and a computer room. A staff room is where officers are given their assignments at the beginning of a shift and discuss patrol notes with the previous shift.
Emergency radio traffic may be centralized with a county E-911 communications center, but many police departments still use their own dispatchers. The dispatchers operate a computer control panel with monitors to keep track of their units and coordinate patrols. They also handle non-emergency related calls that are sent to them from 911 dispatchers.
Booking Office/Holding Cell
Officers prefer to be face-to-face with suspects during the booking process and would prefer not to handle that task from a patrol car. Interrogations of suspects or possible suspects also take place at police stations. Some stations, but not all, have areas for mugshots and fingerprints. Some stations also have small holding cells where suspects remain until they are arraigned and further processed at a county jail.
Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.