BENSALEM POLICE DEPARTMENT
Case Study - Bensalem, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s Bensalem Police Department gains an organized evidence facility—and CALEA accreditation.
When asked about the challenges that he and his department faced when they moved into their new building in Fall 2011, Bensalem Police Department’s Director of Public Safety Frederick Harran quickly summed it up in one sentence: “Storage here was a nightmare.”
“Prior to the expansion, we had a lot of problems,” Harran says, “And then we added 20 officers to the force around the time of the expansion, which increased the size of our department by approximately 25 percent, and then we had even more problems.”
Harran goes on to explain that stuff was piled everywhere—even in hallways—and when that stuff was actually organized in particular way, there was so much of it that the old storage systems weren’t able to handle the weight, particularly in the way of evidence.
Those problems created frustrations and a decrease in department morale, even with a new building—and Harran knew that something had to give. And, as Bensalem borders the northeast section of Philadelphia and is the ninth-largest municipality in the state, the population of the township was continuously increasing. This population increase could only result in one thing—an increase in evidence as well.
“We’re able to retrieve the evidence so much more quickly now, and the officer in charge of our property room is able to keep a more watchful eye on things.”
~ Frederick Harr Director of Public Safety
Bensalem Police Department
Evidence storage “moved by your index finger”
With a variety of locker openings and sizes, the evidence storage lockers are configured to store everything from a recovered wallet to large items such as stereo systems and televisions. In addition to the pass-thru lockers, the bank also includes a refrigerated locker with compartments for medical kits and biological evidence.
“I like to say that our evidence can be moved with your index finger,” Harran says. “Being able to turn the unit and get the evidence out quickly and safely for the workers in that part of the township has been a huge time savings for us.” As the lockers are built into the wall, the evidence custodian is able to retrieve the items on the other side of the wall and continue with the tagging and organization of the items in their long-term evidence storage space.
The chain of custody is maintained throughout, and Bensalem’s worry about lost or misplaced evidence is non-existent.
1951: The year the Bensalem Police Department was established. At that time, the township had a population of 11,500 residents. Now, the department serves over 60,000 residents and an estimated quarter of a million people during business hours each year.
Personal storage lockers boost morale, create a “home away from home”
When the time came to consider expanding the facility, the University of Calgary arrived at a new approach. The institution is still acquiring paper-based materials, so proper storage
for these materials is still a priority, but the design team also wanted to push beyond the concept of a typical off-site “warehouse” model to consolidate vital services and better integrate with campus.
To achieve these goals, the University of Calgary added two additions to its original high-bay facility in 2017-2018. One addition features Spacesaver XTend® Mobile High-Bay Storage Systems to keep materials organized and protected, and the other features office space and work areas.
Records storage no longer "a disaster"
In addition to the evidence storage lockers and the locker rooms, Harran had another headache. “Our files and records, which should have been the most secure possessions that we had, were basically a disaster,” he says. “Maintaining the confidentiality and security of those files were of great importance, but it certainly wasn’t being done with our old storage system, which couldn’t even handle the weight of the files we had onsite.”
Boxes of files were also residing in the hallways of the old building, leading to a less than ideal work environment for Harran’s employees. “We actually had people going out on worker’s compensation because our old records storage system was hard to move and people were getting hurt,” he says.
To assist Bensalem in making sure this issue didn’t keep reoccurring, a high-density mobile storage system was installed in the records storage area to compact the overflow of files into an organized storage space within the same footprint. The system is powered by a push of a button, making worker compensation claims a thing of the past. The powered system was also outfitted with a touchpad control, making it easy limit file access to a specific group of people.
More Staff, More Workspace
Fact: 100: The number of sworn officers in the Bensalem Township Police Department.
The total number of staff members is over 150, and Bensalem is in the Top 15 largest police departments in the state of Pennsylvania.
A hidden benefit – helping with accreditation
One of the added results of Bensalem’s new evidence storage lockers is how it has helped with the department’s state and CALEA accreditation process. “We’re right in line with the accreditation standards for our evidence,” Harran says. “Before this, we used cheap little lickers that we rigged up ourselves, which certainly didn’t help us.”
Whether or not you’re going through accreditation, it’s just the right thing to do,” Harran continues. “It’s the right think to give to the men and the women of the police department, it’s the right thing to do to ensure the security of evidence before it goes to court, and it’s the right thing to do to make sure your folks that are moving files are not getting hurt. I couldn’t imagine going back to the old ways.”
“When people come in and they have better equipment to work with, that honestly helps them on the streets. They work a little harder and a little happier—and that translates into doing good work for the public.”
~ Frederick Harran, Director of Public Safety,
Bensalem Police Department