Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman waved her hand in front of her face as she stood in a former missile silo that's a subterranean site for aspects of county police physical and defensive tactics training.
"Has the air quality been tested?" she asked.
The silo was among facilities she and other county officials visited Wednesday on a tour of the police academy in Davidsonville, which once was a Cold War-era Army Nike missile site.
The county executive deemed it so dilapidated that she ended her tour saying, "It must be rebuilt."
Inside the silo, thick air holds a stench, water drips over the electrical panel and training mats must be rolled up in advance of rain, lest they float.
Neuman called the academy's facilities "deplorable," "appalling" and "alarming."
That included the main building — where the showers don't work and some areas are off-limits because of mold. A former garage, reborn as a weight and exercise room thanks to donations from gyms, has no running water, no bathroom. Bottled water is brought in for drinking because the well water smells of sulfur.
During the tour, a police training officer said the county would have been sued if the jail was in such sorry shape.
Neuman asked the county health department to perform a health inspection of the entire police academy.
"These are the people on our front line, the people we ask to protect our community. And this is where we bring them?" Neuman said. "We will come up with a plan to address this issue."
Neuman was at the site for the tour and to host a Cabinet meeting — she told department heads they need to be familiar with facilities outside their own and think "collectively" about resolving county problems.
Holding a photo of the county's animal shelter — which she said was replaced a decade ago — Neuman said, "We treat animals better than incoming police recruits."
The animal shelter was rebuilt, and she said, "Now we need to do it here as well."
In the past, estimates for a new police training facility have been $10 million on the existing 17-acre site. That would not include a new firing range — officials say the existing range needs help, but not replacement.
Cpl. Mark Gass, first vice president of the county's largest police union, said later that he was glad rebuilding the academy is on Neuman's to-do list.
"I think it's good news that the county executive came to check it out," he said, though he wondered if plans might have gotten a start in the current budget if she'd gotten there earlier in the year.
Neuman was appointed in February as county executive to replace John R. Leopold after his criminal conviction on misconduct charges and subsequent resignation.
Leopold had said last year a new police training facility "should be a priority" in the budget, but he was out of office when budget season rolled around. Neuman did not include it in her first budget, saying she could not address the many county shortcomings immediately.
Kevin Davis, appointed as police chief earlier this month, said he was pleased that Neuman now seems focused on the ailing facility.
On Wednesday, he pointed out a small sign posted over a mirror in the recruits' bathroom, where sinks and toilets are stained brown and a foul odor clings to the interior.
"The image you project is a reflection of the entire police department," it reads.
"Ironic, isn't it?" he said.
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