Debate Heats Up Over Conditions at New Bedford Police Academy
The administration of Mayor Jon Mitchell has responded to allegations by the New Bedford Police Union that conditions at the Police Training Academy are "sub-par" and unfit for "pets to walk."
After leading me on a tour of the aging facility on Tuesday, Union President Chris Cotter said the administration had denied numerous requests for money to improve conditions at the Academy. Cotter said the demolition of 1204 Purchase Street "has been rumored" since Mitchell took office in 2012.
New Bedford Public Information Officer Michael Lawrence told me that "1204 Purchase Street is slated for demolition, potentially for a parking facility to serve the neighborhood and the growing Quest Center across the street."
"There is not yet a specific date or immediate timetable for demolition of 1204 Purchase Street," he said.
As is clearly visible in the article I posted on Tuesday, conditions at the academy are questionable. Many ceiling tiles are water-stained, some are missing, the roof leaks badly, and the flooring is badly damaged. Cotter suggests asbestos and black mold could be present in the offices.
New Bedford City Councilor at Large Brian Gomes said the conditions at the police training academy "didn't happen overnight."
"Let's get into the building and make some repairs," he said.
"The South Public Safety Center was built with space to accommodate training," Lawrence said. "How and when public safety officers and staff use that space is up to those teams."
But Cotter said any decision to move the training academy to the Public Safety Center would come from Police Chief Paul Oliveira and Mayor Mitchell, not the union.
"This is a typical Mayor Mitchell response to mislead the public and deflect the health and safety of the men and women of the New Bedford Police Department," Cotter said. He said Lawrence's statement is neither "accurate" nor "truthful."
Cotter said the new Public Safety Center "was not built to fit additional personnel, never mind using it for training." Cotter added the administration is referring to a "community room and is not a training area at all."
Gomes said the poor conditions at the police training academy "have to do something to (officer) morale."