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High security the design plan with new Maryland State Police barrack

October 18, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Maryland State Police Hagerstown barrack commander Lt. Tom Woodward speaks Tuesday about the security features of the new barrack building. Embedded inside the wall behind him is ballistic cloth and the window is bullet-resistant.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Visitors to the new Maryland State Police barrack on Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive off Sharpsburg Pike have to be buzzed in to go through the second set of doors at the entrance.

At the duty officer station inside the door, thick bullet-proof glass protects a desk area and protective Kevlar lines the walls around the glass.

High security measures are in place throughout the $11.3 million facility, from a five-layer check point system that one must pass through to reach the building’s crime lab to surveillance cameras inside a drug evidence room that can be monitored at the Maryland State Police headquarters in Pikesville, Md.

Known as the Maryland State Police Western Operations Center, the new facility was built in part to replace a worn out state police barrack on the site that was built in 1973 and the building is designed to accommodate growth in the region for many years to come, state police officials said.

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“They really did a good job planning for the future,” said James Lehr, a Maryland State Police forensics science supervisor at the facility.

Analysis of finger prints over the years has been conducted in Pikesville, but Hagerstown now has its own fingerprint center, said Lt. Thomas Woodward, who oversees state police in the building.

Fingerprints in the lab can be analyzed through a chemical process, a powder process and a test that uses different light sources, Woodward said.

One benefit to Hagerstown having its own finger print center is that it will be closer to local courts as the region grows, state police officials said.

The local finger print operation, however, is not yet staffed and local finger print analysis is still conducted in Pikesville, Woodward said.

State police are working with the state Department of Budget and Management to address the staffing needs of the new facility, said Sgt. Marc Black, who works in the state police headquarters in Pikesville.

The Hagerstown fingerprint operation is not being staffed at the present because of difficult state budgetary times, Black said.

State police work out of the first floor of the building, which includes a flexible dispatching area that can be transformed into a central command center in case of a large-scale emergency in the area, said Woodward.
The building includes dorm space that can accommodate up to seven people. There had been dorm space in the old barrack but that was lost to put a “very small crime lab” in the old building, Woodward said.

Forensic scientists won’t have to worry about space in the new crime lab, at least for now.

There is six times more space in the new lab, known as the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division Hagerstown, said Eileen Briley, a forensic scientist who works in the lab.

Workers in the crime lab analyze suspected illegal drugs from Washington, Allegany, Garrett, Frederick and Montgomery counties, Briley said.

The new crime lab has expanded facilities compared to the old lab, including five vent hoods. The old lab had one hood. The hoods, which are equipped with an exhaust fan, are used to draw potentially dangerous vapors out of the lab when scientists are working with drug evidence, Woodward said.

The new lab has a larger evidence room to store suspected illegal drugs that are being analyzed. The room is equipped with a video camera that can be used to monitor the room from the state police headquarters in Pikesville, the state police forensic headquarters in Pikesville and from within the Hagerstown facility, Woodward said.

The Maryland State Police Western Operations Center is equipped with a generator that can provide power to every part of the building in case of a power failure, Woodward said. The generator is enclosed within a brick structure outside the building and it has enough fuel to operate it for a couple weeks, said Woodward.

There was a generator in the old building but it only provided limited electrical service, Woodward said.

“Now days in the computer age if the power goes off, you can’t get any work done,” Woodward said.

At the east end of the building, there is a second entrance but people entering there cannot access the part of the building containing state police, the state fire marshal and the crime lab, Woodward said.

At the east entrance, people can access an upstairs classroom that can be used by various public safety agencies for training. The classroom has a capacity for 58 people and is convenient for offering training locally rather than “running everybody down to Pikesville,” Woodward said.

Woodward said state police are planning to have an open house at the Maryland State Police Western Operations Center, possibly next month.

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