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NORTH COUNTRY AT WORK: The state-of-the-art Tupper Lake Police Department

February 2, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

Over the past 25 years, technology has drastically changed the way law enforcement officers do their job. Those changes have made their way from big city police departments to small-town forces here in the North Country.

Eric Proulx has been with the Tupper Lake Police Department for almost 25 years, five years as the chief. His dad, Tom Proulx, was a police officer, too. After high school in Tupper Lake and college at SUNY Canton, Eric was working at the OWD manufacturing plant in town, looking for a change. His father suggested he take the civil service test to become a police officer. So he did, and within a couple of years, he was hired.

"Twenty-five years ago when I started, everything was done with a pen," Proulx said. "There were no computers. Now the only time I use a pen is to sign my name on something. Everything else is computerized now."

Article Photos

Above, Tupper Lake Police Department Chief Eric Proulx poses in front of his cruiser on Jan. 18. Below, his father Tom Proulx poses in his Tupper Lake police car in 1978.
(Photo provided — Andy Flynn)

The new police headquarters opened in October 2015. Anyone who was arrested at the old station will notice one thing right away; there's no holding cell, just a bench.

"The old station had several cells in it, a cell block," Proulx said. "That involves quite a bit of oversight from the Department of Corrections. It also involves more training, upkeep, that kind of stuff. So when we designed this building, we decided we didn't want to go with temporary holding cells. We wanted to go with a specific prisoner bench."

The new building is spacious and clean. Computers are everywhere. First stop - if you're arrested - is a booking room, just like in the old days. But the process is quicker.

"This unit here is what we call the Live Scan," Proulx said in the booking room. "It's a computerized unit that takes a person's photograph and fingerprints when they're arrested. We don't do ink prints here anymore. All of our fingerprints and photographs are taken at the time of arrest with this machine and sent directly to the Division of Criminal Justice Services in Albany. And within a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes, we'll get a reply back of the person's rap sheet and their criminal history from the state and also a positive identification of their fingerprints that are on file."

In the old days, Proulx took fingerprints, stuffed them in an envelope and mailed them to Albany.

"If there was a problem with the prints, you wouldn't know it for a couple of weeks where it came back where they couldn't read the prints," Proulx said. "Then you'd have to find the person, re-print them, mail them back in. Now with this here, you take their prints, and while you're taking the prints, the machine tells you if you've taken an acceptable print."

All the technology helps the department communicate, too with each other and the outside world. Laptops in their SUVs give officers direct access to all kinds of information. You're stopped for speeding? They can run your driver's license and registration while you're waiting.

Yet there's one tool that has nothing to do with computers. It's as low-tech as you can get. It's a dog, JD, named after Tupper Lake's first police chief, JD Auclair. The K9 unit works with officer Jordan Nason.

"A lot of smaller municipalities such as mine used to have them or never had them, or don't have them because of the cost associated with it," Proulx said. "We did have to pay for this dog, but we had done fundraising for our program at the start."

Even so, there was a lot of social media chatter about the department's police dog. Some people said a K-9 unit is a waste of money. But Chief Proulx says JD is a priority.

"He recently tracked a domestic violence suspect that fled from the area, right to the house that we went to. It's another resource for us to have to combat the narcotics problem we have in the North Country, the opioid problem," Proulx said. "He does well. He's a well-trained dog. He's loyal to officer Nason. But he's not the kind of dog that the public can come up to and pet. He's a working dog, not a pet."

While technology has made police work in Tupper Lake more efficient, there's always that human - or canine - element needed to get the job done. Not counting Chief Proulx or the K9 unit, the police department has nine officers and one civilian dispatcher.

(This story comes to you from North Country Public Radio's North Country at Work project, which explores the working lives and history of our region. To see all the stories, check out www.ncpr.org/work.)

 
 

 

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