Former Chief Kenny Francis in front of the fire bays donated by the local phone company about 1995. Photos courtesy of GPD

 Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner Police Department is getting ready to move to the new Justice Center off Moonlight road. The department has been housed at its current location on Main Street since 1995 and has experienced steady growth in the decades since.
Prior to the building on Main, the GPD was housed in a small facility on Elm St.
A lot of police work has happened at the current location – which was donated for $1 by the local phone company. While the building has been in use at least one homicide and an officer-involved shooting incident have occurred.

As Gardner has grown, so has the police department. In the late 80’s – early 90’s it was housed on S Elm Street, before moving to its current location on West Main when the local phone company donated a building.

“We once caught a prisoner who had escaped from Lansing Correctional Facility. We caught him hiding out in an abandoned home at the mobile home park,” said Steve Benz, public information officer.
According to Benz, there were only about 4,000 residents in the city when the department moved to its current location.
“We had one guy for the midnight shift, and all our investigations were done by the sheriff’s department,” he said.
During its earlier days the department was known as the Gardner Public Safety, and it incorporated firefighting and emergency technicians (EMTs).
“Sometimes we would get a fire call, and the officers on patrol would converge at the incident place where they would meet the fire truck. They would change from their police uniforms and don firefighting gear and start combating the blaze. And after all was cleared we would then change back to our police uniforms and head out to patrol the streets,” he said. “It was barebones, but we managed.”
The department has undergone a lot of changes since then including adding three school resource officers, three full time detectives, a four- person bicycle unit, four commercial vehicle inspectors, a code compliance unit and a canine unit. The department currently has 35 officers and staff.
Benz said that the department has now outgrown the space, and there’s excitement among officers and staff about the move to the new Justice Center.
At the current location, six supervisors share a room with two desks, and three detectives use one room.
“At the Justice Center the supervisors and detectives will have their own offices.”
The new center will have a training room that can seat 16 people in addition to a 40 person community room.
Benz said that the new facility has been designed with growth in mind including space for a full-fledged traffic department.
Municipal court services will also be housed at the Justice Center.