Jake Davis

There is no question that the significant capital investment of money, time and collective intellect involved in designing and building a new police facility places a strong emphasis on making sure a facility can grow with the department over an extended period of time. Police stations must adapt over time, as departmental and community needs and borders evolve and shift, as well as from other inputs such as changes in laws regarding evidence retention, and the proliferation of technology in society that draw new law enforcement boundaries.

The timescales of public safety facilities are often measured in decades and a fundamental challenge of police station design is that departments don't grow symmetrically. Police stations are split into a number of distinct areas, driven by function, such as patrol, investigations and records. Each of these areas grows at its own unique pace and where one would probably benefit the department most near the area of the addition, but does little for the other departments away from the spot of the addition.

A hypothetical police department over the course of 20 years may only add one records clerk and two detectives, but at the same time it may add twenty patrol officers, while adding a six-person tactical unit in investigations, four evidence technicians to run a new crime lab, and may open a new cyber-crimes taskforce, along with the two subject matter experts to run it and two civilians to keep track of inventory. Meanwhile, your deputy chief just returned from a police show and has convinced you of the need for a forty foot long command vehicle. Great, where do you park it? There are three distinct phases of growth that seem rather simplistic on the surface. Growth falls into short-term, medium-term and long-term categories. Each of these demands its own set of challenges and strategies.

Ideally, short-term growth strategies are baked right into the plan for a new building. If you know that you are going to have two additional detectives in the next ten years, it is wise to plan space for those workstations from day one and in all likelihood, even buy the desks for them. This way, when they start, there is no need to move or displace people.

Medium-term growth is more challenging, as this covers many of the less predictable segments of the department. An example might be a need for an entire additional patrol beat, needed because of annexation containing 7,500 new home sites. A new patrol beat may add as many as eight new patrol officers in one fell swoop. There is an argument that patrol officers spend precious little time in the police station. In a sense that is true, but each patrol officer also needs a personnel locker and a place to put his or her duty bag, or a place to write a report. These items demand space. Maybe you installed lockers in a hallway on the way to the cars for duty bags. There may be a few extra lockers in the row, but not eight. One smart medium-term growth strategy is to pick lockers that can stack and space above, so you can now stack new lockers above the old.

Long-term growth does require structured additions, but the best planning up front means that the table is set for these additions. Important considerations are isolating areas with suspicion of explosive growth by locating them near exterior walls, as well as planning site utilities and parking such that a pad for future expansion is identified. One area like this is evidence storage. Many departments grapple with forever growing evidence storage needs. The good news is that this is less expensive space to construct. Provided that some of the steps to ready an area for addition area followed, even designing for long term growth is painless.

Great police design relies on careful planning up front that takes short-, medium- and long-term growth into account.

1 Comments Post a Comment
  • 19 November 2015

    Patrick Johnson

    New Salem, Oregon Police facility possible site: On Corden Road between State Street & Auburn Road. The property is big enough for the department, Evidence Warehouse, Crime Lab, Swat Team, Bomb Squad, K-9 Unit and training facility, And whatever else is needed for the police. It's not a centralized location, but it's the ONLY place in the city that's large enough to accommodate everyone and everything.