By Greg Ellison
New building represents one final goal for Massey before his retirement
(July 23, 2020) Closing out a law enforcement career spanning five decades, Ocean Pines Police Chief Dave Massey is notching one last accomplishment before retiring Aug. 1 — the imminent unveiling of an expanded, safety-enhanced headquarters.
Massey said a precise date to break the seal on the remodeled police building is contingent upon obtaining certificate of occupancy approval from Worcester County.
“They’re still inspecting the building, but it’s close,” he said.
Erected in 1985, the former police department building had less than 1,800 square feet and will now balloon to about 5,400 square feet.
Massey, who had long championed the expansion, said the goal was to enhance safety for both officers and the community.
“I’ve tried in the past to get a different facility and the timing wasn’t right, the finances weren’t right or the board wasn’t right,” he said.
Approved in April 2019 by the OPA Board of Directors as one of three capital projects topping $3.1 million, the police and administrative building was budgeted at $1.2 million and is slated to finish about $200,000 below that tally, General Manager John Viola reported on July 10.
“I’m very glad the board and GM saw the need and aggressively promoted this building,” he said. “They are all to be commended for that.”
Massey said the minimal space provided in the original station left Ocean Pines, the county’s largest community, with the smallest police station.
“The building was not designed by criminal justice consultants,” he said. “When I first came in there was one cell and it had no toilet.”
After later installing plumbing fixtures to relieve officers of accompanying subjects in custody requiring a bathroom break, other adjustments were made as staff numbers grew over the years but space remained constant.
“We kind of cannibalized the building,” he said.
Less-than-ideal spaces were turned into holding areas and interview rooms.
“You had to really pay attention for your safety because without the proper channelization and security in a cellblock it can be very dangerous,” he said. “You had to be on guard.”
The new structure, which was designed after conferring with criminal justice consultants, includes areas specified for booking, interviews, evidence storage and a weapons armory.
Massey said in addition to resolving a past lack of proper cellblock facilities, the new police building would include access controls and security monitoring.
“They’ll be cameras on everything, not only for the safety of officers but for anyone that comes in,” he said. “It will be safer and reduce the liability of the association dramatically because of the nature of the building.”
Massey said enhanced safety measures protect not only officers but also people in their custody.
“We have some people that can be pretty violent that we deal with (for) domestics, burglaries and break-ins,” he said. “Then people that are on drugs (or) that hate authority and we’re just the target of it.”
The small footprint caused other challenges as well,
“Things were stacked up everywhere and we just didn’t have any space,” he said. “You can’t put a quart in a pint jar.”
Eyeballing the end of 46 years in community policing, starting as a seasonal officer in Ocean City before ascending to chief in that jurisdiction, followed by serving the past 17 years as the top law enforcement official in Ocean Pines, Massey directed credit to his predecessor, Rod Murray, who served a similar number of years before handing over the reins in 2003.
“Chief Murray was instrumental with getting me an interview with the (then) General Manager Dave Ferguson,” he said. “He was the special police chief when we had special police here.”
In 2005 Massey oversaw state legislation to recertify the department to be on par with neighboring agencies.
“They were really at a disadvantage compared to the other police agencies in the county,” he said. “The certification gives you a lot more authority (and) you come under the Maryland State Police Training Commission.”
Despite being past retirement age after reaching 70 this year, Massey hung in for an extended time to assure the improved headquarters came to fruition.
“I had thought that last year would have been a good time for me to retire, but I wanted to get one last push for this building,” he said. “A chief’s job is to leave the department better than he found it.”
Massey, who is on the verge of handing over the keys to incoming Chief Leo Ehrisman, envisions future departmental growth based on the foundation established by former Chief Murray.
“I believe that I built the first floor,” he said. “I’m very sure that, my successor, will build the second floor and continue to make this department better.”