UP sees need to update criminal processing facility

Evan Hessel

University Police has outgrown its headquarters, straining the building’s criminal processing facility, but the department does not expect an overhaul any time soon, UP officials said.

UP and Northwestern’s Business and Finance Department have been discussing improving the headquarters for years, but do not have the space or funds to make any immediate changes, Asst. Chief Daniel McAleer said.

“I’m sure the university would be willing to find us a new facility or upgrade the existing one, but there’s only so much space and money,” McAleer said. “We’re like everybody else and have to wait our turn.”

Since UP was founded, the department has moved criminal processing from Evanston Police Department to its current headquarters. As UP has expanded its operations, the building has become inadequate, McAleer said.

The current facility holds a bench with handcuffs, a desk and computer for processing arrest information, and areas for taking fingerprints and photographs. The facility poses some safety threats because it is not secured from the rest of the headquarters, said Sgt. John Perkins of UP. The facility is separated only by standard doors that require a key to to be locked. Perkins said he would like to see the installation of automatically locking doors similar to those at EPD and most city police departments.

Although a suspect has never broken out of the processing facility, Perkins said he is concerned about the possibility.

“If a criminal were to overpower an officer during processing, which has never happened … he could potentially get into the rest of the headquarters and pummel someone who just came in for a parking ticket,” Perkins said. “That’s a major safety and liability problem.”

Another flaw of the current processing facility is its location below the entrance of the police department. Officers have to move a suspect down a flight of stairs before processing, which can be difficult if the person resists.

“An improved facility would be very much like the one we have now, only without the stairs,” McAleer said.

Perkins is slated to transfer from UP to NU’s Risk Management Office at the beginning of February.

He says he will listen closely to proposals for UP facility improvements at his new job.

“An improvement to the headquarters would do exactly what I’ll be trying to do in my new job: limit liability and mange risk,” Perkins said.