Grand opening of new Gadsden municipal court and east police pre - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Grand opening of new Gadsden municipal court and east police precinct building

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GADSDEN, Ala. - The Gadsden Police Department's new east precinct office is open for business 24 hours a day.

It used to be that if someone wanted to file a police report on a non-emergency, he or she could stop by Gadsden City Hall day or night.  There was a desk sergeant available at all times,

"Due to a budget crunch back in 2003 we had to close that down, but now we have reopened it," police sergeant Patrick Chumley said.

The Gadsden-Etowah County Chamber of Commerce had a ceremonial ribbon cutting Monday morning during a grand opening of the facility, which is also the new home for the Gadsden municipal courtroom and court clerk's offices.

The Campbell Avenue building used to house Weaver Technical School.  It is right off of the Piedmont Cut-Off along Highway 278, about a quarter of a mile from Highway 431.

Mayor Sherman Guyton said there was a long term plan of setting money aside to revamp municipal court and increase the police presence in the east precinct.

"About 3 years and $400,000 later, we got moved in," Guyton said.

"All the patrol shifts will meet over here to go on their patrols.  We're going to add another car on this side, on the east side, there will be three patrol cars in this district over here, and we'll have a full time desk person too, so it's going to be great for everybody."

The main police office at the station by city hall is only open 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  If a person came to the station to file a report and there wasn't an officer at the station there to complete paperwork, the person would have to wait while an office employee tracked one down.

"A benefit of having a dedicated desk officer, we don't have to take anybody off the street.  We can leave all of our patrolmen out, and you can be able to come in and do a report," Chumley said.

The police sergeant said people can always call 911 for emergencies, but there are instances where a visit to meet with an officer is the preferred option.  It can also be a safe haven.

"It's kind of a sanctuary if you're being followed.  We have a lot of people that get followed.  Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, ex-husbands, they can come into the east Gadsden precinct" for security, Chumley said.

Municipal court clerk Brenda Card said she also feels safer.

"If anything gets out of hand, we just walk out there and they're just right there, on the spot," Card said.

She and her staff are thrilled to have all the extra space in which to work.  Gadsden previously used the city council chambers as the municipal courtroom.

In addition to sharing that space, four municipal court workers shared one big room.  Card had a small office to the side, but now she, the warrant officer, and the other staff members have separate rooms in which to work.

"Now we can work with people one on one.  At that time, everyone was just hollering, talking out of the same window," she said.

"You have to take your time working with one person at a time.  And that's a lot better.  People can hear better, people can understand better, and it's just a good work place being in our own building."

The courtroom has space for 140 people, compared to fewer than 90 at the city council chambers.  Card said they will be able to begin municipal court earlier in the day, and get through proceedings quicker.  There is also an office at the back of the courtroom where people can pay fines on their way out.

Other perks of the building include more parking, handicap access, and Card said the air conditioning works much better.

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