It came with a $1.34 million price tag and a good amount of controversy. But officials say the remodeled Longview Police Station will help detectives and street crime officers solve more cases, keep information more confidential and do a better job of policing.
Detectives moved to the remodeled second floor last week from their cramped workstations on the first floor. Police Chief Jim Duscha said the excitement in the office has been palpable.
“You can see it on the detectives’ faces. They’re excited to move into the new offices. It’s definitely a morale booster,” Duscha said last week.
The 3,400 square-foot remodeled space now boasts private offices for the seven detectives, two additional interview rooms, an open office space for the Street Crimes Unit, evidence processing and storage areas, a reception desk, a break room and two conference rooms, one of which can be used for emergency operations.
Plans to remodel the station’s empty second floor have been under consideration since the police department first moved into the former bank building at 1351 Hudson St. in 1999.
Detective Sgt. Chris Blanchard said there were three detectives at that time and they all shared one open office space. More recently, six detectives have had to share that same space. And there’s a need to make room for a domestic violence detective expected to join the force later this month.
Captain Debbie Pineda said when she was a detective, the close quarters could make it difficult to conduct sensitive phone interviews. A victim or witness may overhear loud conversations, laughter or information from other cases in the background, she said.
“In our current space we are so close that it’s hard to tune out what people are doing when you’re trying to focus on work,” Blanchard said. “The work environment plays a big factor in people’s demeanor. … Working conditions should be a lot better (upstairs).”
Duscha said private offices will make detectives more productive, which could increase the number of solved cases.
“The offices allow detectives to dig into cases in a quiet setting where they’re not disturbed. That’s always beneficial,” he said.
The two additional interview rooms on the second floor will reduce the wait time between interviews and reduce the chance of suspects overhearing information from other cases, Administrative Manager Mary Chennault said.
“The main purpose of the remodel was to improve the privacy of investigations to better serve the public,” Chennault said.
The remodel project also included upgrades to the heating, venting, cooling and fire alarm systems.
Chennault is especially fond of the vintage lights added to the station entrance.
Work on the 50-year-old elevator and resurfacing of the second floor parking structure are expected to begin in the next couple months, Chennault said.
The majority of the funding for the $1.34 million project came from the Public Safety Fund (formerly called the Traffic Safety Fund) which generated revenue from the now-ended traffic camera ticketing system. (The council recently designated about $100,000 from the Building Depreciation Fund to update the elevator).
The City Council initially rejected use of the Public Safety Fund, which was set up in 2010 solely for traffic safety programs and improvements. However, on a 6-1 vote, the council reversed itself in December 2016 at the urging of Councilman Mike Wallin. Only Councilman Steve Moon voted against it.
There was some public outcry at the time about the use of the funds for a building remodel, but Chief Duscha says he believes it was worth the money. A remodel is less expensive than constructing a new building, so citizens are “getting more bang for their buck,” he said.
“We obviously are involved in public safety, so I think it’s a permitted use of the funds,” Duscha said. “The department is growing, so we need to expand our facility to make the work environment better for employees.”
Now that the second floor is complete, the department hopes to redesign the first floor to create a conference room, more space for patrol officers and breathing room for future department growth. But plans are still in the early stages.
Captain Pineda said the remodeled second floor improves the professionalism. Her favorite new feature: the silver wall lettering that reads “Longview Police Operations” with the core values of integrity, teamwork, courage and service listed below.
“It sets the tone when you walk in.”