Jena DeLuca, an emergency dispatcher, shows off her new, modernized equipment at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Police Station. DeLuca is one of three personnel who monitor all the activities at JBM-HH as well as at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Julia Simpkins

Police chief renovates, modernizes department despite multiple challenges

For years, tight budgets restricted facilities’ maintenance. From leaking ceilings to a broken lock, almost every office has some infrastructure problem it would like to solve immediately. The reality, however, is that resources are limited and some projects will have to wait.

When challenges face leaders, however, they don’t have the luxury of waiting for others to find solutions. That was the situation Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall police Chief William Johnson found himself in about a year ago.

“We had multiple projects that needed to be addressed,” Johnson said. “After 9/11 we were directed to consolidate our dispatch centers for better communications between the police and fire responses.”

Johnson said the police station, which was built in 2002, hadn’t had any renovations in many years.

“We needed a better workspace for our employees who work 24/7; we needed to bring our communication center into the 21st century. We needed to updated our equipment and provide better communication and (Closed Circuit TV) coverage to our community There were several short-range projects that couldn’t wait, so I advised the garrison commander on our priorities and (requested) her assistance.”

The chief said Col. Kimberly Peeples, JBM-HH commander, came through.

“It all started with the commander’s walk through,” Johnson said. “My biggest issue was communications — old equipment. The first thing was our communications room which includes our 911 system, alarms and (CCTV). We are currently transitioning from military police Soldiers to civilian dispatchers to allow MPs to conduct the mission they are trained to do, which is protect our great installation.”

Jena DeLuca was an emergency dispatcher in Tennessee and Florida before coming to JBM-HH. She said the equipment and conditions are much better than when she first got here.

“The improvements are making a big difference,” she said. “We’re always improving. I’m very proud of where we’ve come.”

In addition, new acoustic panels provide the perfect sound absorption materials for deadening and dampening noise allows dispatching to clearly hear calls for service and manage multiple phones and calls, the chief said. New ergonomic desks support employees who sit on watch for 12-24 hours a day.

DeLuca’s sentiments were echoed by co-workers Brian Sutton and Marla Curry, who are also newly hired dispatchers. Surrounded by an overhang of large screens that each display multiple live-feed video images. The three workers are responsible for taking all the incoming calls, as well as monitoring activity throughout the joint base and on Arlington National Cemetery.

To comply with modern standards for ergonomics in office environments, and to more efficiently use space, Johnson upgraded his station’s administrative area with new carpet and ergonomically sound desks and chairs.

“We have carpet now,” said Toni Carroll, the supervisory administrative officer. “Before it was cold (in) here. This place is more functional, more open now. I like it.”

A huge improvement is that the police station has an independent arms room. The new building was purchased by the Marine Corps at Henderson Hall shortly before the two installations became a joint base, Johnson said. The Marines no longer had use for this equipment as most of their combat arms were sent to Marine Base Quantico, and those who remained didn’t need the building.

“It’s called an ARMAG, which is a mobile arms room,” said Johnson. “I was on a temporary assignment as director of operations, so I learned how the work order process worked in the (Directorate of Public works) world. I became familiar with this process and how to get projects done more efficiently.

“I asked the colonel if I could get that ARMAG brought over here and she was all for it. Because she is an engineer, she had some good ideas about the process and explained how we should proceed to run electricity and pour concrete to (support) the equipment. She helped us make it happen quickly.”

The ARMAG, which has been in place for about five months, houses all the police department’s day-to-day weapons, making check out very simple and efficient, said police Sgt. Tim Curtain, who’s worked at the JBM-HH Police Department for nine years.

“We used to have to check our weapons out of the military arms room,” Curtain said. “That was a long, inconvenient process. This is so much better.”

The JBM-HH police station, while no marvel of modern machinery, is efficient and highly functional, Johnson said. He attributes the improvements, which all happened in the last two years, to teamwork and command support, Johnson said.

“Specifically, (I got a lot of help from) Department of the Army Civilian Police Capt. Jason Hazzard and the 289th Military Police Company 1st Sgt. Patrick Bowser who was formerly the Directorate of Emergency Services provost sergeant,” he said. “We have lots of folks here who believe in the mission. They jump to every task. The colonel gave the support we needed as soon as I asked for it.”

By Julia Simpkins

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Command Information Chief