The days of struggling for time in the conference room and interviewing victims and suspects in non-designated areas are almost gone for the Vienna Police Department's Criminal Investigation Bureau [CIB].
Over the course of the last several months, what was once a records storage area in the basement of Vienna's Town Hall has been completely transformed as the new base of operations for Vienna Police Department detectives. It is a move that is much-anticipated and long overdue, according to Captain Mike Miller, deputy chief of police.
"We've had moments in the past [at the main Police Department headquarters] where we used to have to interview suspects and witnesses in hallways, holding cells," said Miller, while standing in the newly completed facility.
Miller specifically remembers having to negotiate for time in a conference room when local police were working with the FBI to track down the "cell phone bandit" serial bank robber who had struck in Vienna last year as one of these instances.
"That's not an ideal situation for the kind of police work that the CIB needs to do Ö so we recognized pretty quickly that we needed to find a solution," he said.
THE NEED FOR a new space for the CIB had arisen over the course of several years of technological growth at the Vienna Police Department and not a growing staff or caselaod, according to Miller.
"The technology boom has required us to grow and give a greater amount of dedicated space to things like computers and other equipment," he said. "A lot of advancements have been made to the ways that police do work in the last ten years that have made our work better, but at the same time, we need that extra space."
Miller watched as the space used by investigators was slowly absorbed for technological purposes - the interviewing room was used for breathalyzer equipment and the holding area was turned into a computer repair room. The practice of investigators collecting more evidence, like DNA samples, and the need for equipment for video monitoring purposes further worked to constrain the space at the existing police facility.
Eventually, detectives were interviewing suspects and victims in close proximity of each other and finding it difficult to manage the limited space for their investigations.
WHEN VIENNA'S Town Council began exploring what it could do to give its investigators more operating room, several options, including adding on to the existing police facility on Center Street and renting a unit, said Mayor M. Jane Seeman.
When police suggested converting a former record-storage area in the basement of the Town Hall, there was immediate support amongst town officials, she added.
"Building an addition was looking pretty expensive and we didn't want to be renting a facility because it would be like the town throwing money out the window," Seeman said. "The beauty of this option is that its town property and that space can be used for another town department in the future," after a more permanent location for the CIB is discovered.
The facility is also equipped with the Vienna Police Department's first back-up dispatch center, to be used in case of emergencies or in moments of downed equipment.
THE NEW FACILITY includes two separate interview rooms, a kitchen and conference area, three extra-large cubicles for investigators and a separate office for the head of the division. The interview rooms will also feature video and audio recording capabilities to aid in investigations.
The total cost of the conversion is estimated to be a little over $100,000 according to Vienna Chief of Police Robert Carlisle.
It will be utilized by the five detectives in the bureau, as well as narcotics and gang task force officers as well as in partnership operations with Fairfax County police and federal authorities, Miller said.
The facility renovations have been a personal process for the detectives, Miller added, as all of them took part in choosing the furniture, carpeting and color schemes.
For CIB Det. Tina Brook, the greatest benefit in the renovation is simple.
"We're finally going to have a lot more space and better organization, so we won't be all crunched together anymore," Brook said. "It just makes for a much more professional environment."
"The work we do here requires a lot of concentration, so I'm just looking forward to gaining that advantage."