SHELTON — Police headquarters is once again open for employees and the public — except for the recently controversial lower-level bathrooms.

A Shelton Police Department special order, effective Thursday, says the lobby is again open and all law enforcement personnel have access to the interior, but locker rooms and the department gym will remain closed so renovations can take place in the lower level. The department has instituted personal protection guidelines as well.

“We are reopening (headquarters) with safety measures in place,” Chief Shawn Sequeira said.

Sequeira said the first floor is open, so roll call can be conducted, although with no more than 25 people at one time. All in attendance are required to wear masks and gloves and maintain social distancing of 6 feet. The order states that officers can continue to change in the single-occupancy bathrooms on the main floor.

As for general bathroom use, officers “unless summoned to headquarters by a supervisor or dispatch … shall continue to request permission to return to enter headquarters which can be granted by a supervisor.

“This will ensure supervisors know where officers are in relation to area coverage,” the order further states.

Sequeira said the lower level, which houses the locker rooms and gym, will remain closed for some two weeks as work is completed on replacing flooring and ceiling tiles and areas are repainted. Once complete, the lower-level areas will be opened and main floor renovations will take place.

“We’re trying to get this work done while use of the building is still not that great,” Sequeira said.

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The Shelton Police Department headquarters lobby will be open, but with specific safety measures in place.

Individuals must maintain a 6-foot distance inside. All people must contact dispatch through the intercom system upon arrival to explain their reason for being on site.

Dispatchers will ask screening questions before authorizing entry into the lobby.

A sign is posted in the lobby entrance advising people they must wear masks when entering. Anyone currently sick or experiencing symptoms associated with the coronavirus are asked not to enter the building.

Officers will continue to take all complaints outside the building when possible. The determination will be made by the officer after considering the nature of the complaint.

The department is again offering fingerprinting and pistol permit processing, both by appointment only.

People can also purchase police report in person, but Chief Shawn Sequeira encourages individuals to continue to request reports online.

Use of the interior locker room and bathrooms has been the focus of a disagreement between the police union and chief.

Last month the union filed a grievance alleging their three female patrol officers were denied use of their headquarters restrooms while the 49 men had access. The police chief then limited use of headquarters locker rooms and bathrooms for both men and women and set up portable toilets for patrol officers in the parking lot.

Union attorney Barbara Resnick said there is no legitimate reason why the locker rooms could not have been painted during the more than two months that police headquarters have already been closed.

“The decision to continue to deny our officers access to the locker rooms, based on the alleged need for painting, is just another disingenuous excuse to cover the continued punitive behavior of this chief,” Resnick said.

“In addition, in the past 20 years, the locker rooms have been painted on two occasions and both times were closed for a single day to complete this task,” she said. “Suddenly two weeks is required for simple painting of approximately 500 square feet.”

Sequeira denied any “punitive” actions on his part. He said the reason for closing the area is because, besides painting, workers will be replacing flooring and ceiling tiles throughout those areas and the main corridor.

There are portable toilets in the department parking lot, and Sequeira said officers can still use the bathrooms at the farmer’s market building or use their residence, if granted permission.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com