The Mesquite Police Department consists of 35 police officers, dozens of assistants, personnel and volunteers. Because of them, the City of Mesquite is able to carry on a somewhat normal life on a day-to-day basis. But what drives that ability is much more detailed and thorough.
From the outside and to those who have only driven by the Mesquite Police Department’s headquarters at 695 Mayan Circle, the building looks relatively simple and small. It’s a basic structure surrounded by an iron fence and security cameras. Assumptions are often made that what it holds inside is merely offices for the higher ranks and their support staff. It was built in 2006 and owned by a few other entities before the city obtained it in 2010.
What is actually inside is far more intricate. Sure, there’s the front area as you walk in that displays the history of the MPD and the clerks that assist citizens with a multitude of requests daily. Once you get beyond the secure doorways, however, that quickly changes.
For one day, the Mesquite Local News joined the Women’s Defensive Weaponry Club as they toured the facility. It took nearly two hours for Officer Darren Wilkins to guide the group through halls and rooms that the entire police department uses on a daily basis and to explain details of those rooms.
Everything a department could need is under one roof, including an indoor shooting range and a ‘mat room’ where officers practice hand-to-hand combat techniques in a safe environment. Officers are
required to complete a certain number of hours each year to maintain their training skills and these two features of the building are one reason why they are able to complete those hours without the long trek to Las Vegas.
Another area of interest within the building is the Dispatch room. Housing just three work stations and a very large flat screen television, the room is literally the heart of the city. All calls to 911 and the non-emergency line are directed to this one room that is monitored at every moment of the day by at least two personnel. Calls don’t come in just for Mesquite, however, as the MPD is also the dispatch operation for Beaver Dam Fire Department.
Being in the dispatch room isn’t as simple as one would think. “Not only do they have to keep track of any calls that are coming in,” said Wilkins, “but they also have to keep track of all the jail stuff going on, including the court rooms.” The jail and courthouse are nearly two miles away on Hillside Drive. All of the door functions for locked areas are controlled at the MPD on Mayan Circle. “That’s pretty much half of their day, monitoring what’s going on at the jail and assisting them,” added Wilkins.
In recent years, the dispatch system has undergone some revamping, costing a lot of money and several upgrades, but has paid off in the end. “When calls come in pinging off of our cell towers, they are routed directly to us,” said Mike Bennett, who is the Lead Dispatcher for MPD. “It took a lot of time and money, but things have improved tremendously compared to how they worked a few years ago.”
Bennett cited the common situation that calls to 911 from a cell phone several years ago were sent to Las Vegas and would then have to be rerouted to Mesquite. Since that has been fixed, response times have improved greatly. The other issue that callers once faced if they had service with Sprint was the message stating that 911 had been disconnected. “That happens rarely now,” Bennett said. He also noted that depending on the carrier for cell service and the tower the caller is pinging off of, sometimes an address is provided with their call. “Not always, but sometimes,” he said. All calls from landlines, of course, automatically display a location address.
Dispatch is also responsible for monitoring 11 traffic cameras supplied and controlled by the Nevada Department of Transportation in Las Vegas. With more than 7,000 cameras in Clark County, NDOT has their hands full. With one call, the MPD can request the cameras be adjusted and use the cameras to review accidents and incidents that happen daily.
Another room of interest is the virtual training room where officers view and participate in a virtual program with laser weapons, interacting with the computer program in scenarios that many hope to never encounter. The videos use real people with real language and emotions to impose a similar sense of what the real situation would look and feel like so that officers can make decisions as needed. If action wasn’t taken in the right amount of time, the video program will display a screen saying that. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding and the ever-changing world of technology, the software has been unusable in recent months. While the IT Department works on the system to try and get it to become workable, officers are left with their imagination.
The favorite area for the WDW members was likely the indoor shooting range, which includes three bays or lines for officers who need to get some shooting rounds in for certification. The indoor area is about 25 yards long, with the far end being an angled wall of mixed tires to absorb the bullets. For health reasons, a very large ventilation system helps remove dust and lead particles before they are ingested by officers. “We are always training on more effective ways to handle situations where we need to use our weapons,” said Wilkins. Thankfully, Mesquite only sees a handful of those situations in a decade.