Why create a new public safety facility?
Law enforcement is constantly evolving to meet the needs of today’s challenges in public safety.
As the landscape of policing changes over time, many agencies need facilities that can incorporate or accommodate these changes.
However, before starting plans for a new facility, there are items to consider in ensuring that the new or updated facility will meet the current and future needs of the agency and community.
Community engagement has become a central focus in policing.
The premise is to build relationships with community members and involve them in public safety efforts to strengthen the department’s presence and relationship with the community it serves and to enhance the community’s trust in the agency.
There are many ways to implement this philosophy, and facility design is one factor that can play a critical part in any law enforcement agency’s community engagement efforts.
Several considerations come into play when determining whether a public safety facility promotes an agency’s community engagement initiatives.
The following questions can also help to identify changes that can be made to current or future facilities to transform them into community-friendly buildings:
- Is the location accessible to the public?
- Does the current facility provide spaces to house public events (which can also be used for departmental ceremonies and promotions)?
- Does the lobby create a welcoming and inviting environment, so community members feel safe to engage with the officers and the department?
- Does the building provide adequate space to conduct police and court services while providing public access?
- Does the building welcome the public, or does it have a “fortress” look and feel?
- What makes a facility a community building?
- And lastly, are there spaces within the structure for youth in the community to interact with the department staff in a positive environment, such as a recreation room?
There is a fine design balance required in creating open, inviting spaces for the public, while still protecting officers, staff, and secured areas within the building.
With recent concerns for both officers and citizens, safety is of paramount importance.
The following elements can be instrumental in creating a building that is open to the community while maintaining the proper lines of invisible security on site and within the building: They are:
- Security controls in the public lobby as well as throughout the building
- Secured parking for staff that is visually and physically separated from the public parking areas
- CCTV at all entry points, as well as in sensitive areas throughout the building and site
- Decompression areas for the public as well as the staff
Another consideration when evaluating our current facilities or planning for future facilities is accreditation standards.
Accreditation standards are generally based on procedures; however, the way a facility is designed can aid or hinder these procedures.
For instance, an agency requires adequate and appropriate space for personnel to conduct their work.
Certain areas of the facility are assessed and continually undergo scrutiny of how they protect the interests of the department, its personnel, and the community members interacting with staff within the facility.
Areas that might be evaluated include the records unit; training facilities; patrol work areas; property and evidence management areas; crime scene laboratories; secured interview suites; hazardous materials storage; criminal investigations work areas; and dispatch centers.
Working with an experienced architect who specializes in designing a facility with these standards in mind will aid in the reaccreditation process.
Agencies looking to improve their community engagement efforts and better meet the evolving demands and roles of law enforcement have 3 choices.
Do nothing and hope the status quo allows them to tread water.
Update and improve their current facilities—Or consider constructing a new building that takes those needs into consideration from day one.
Before starting to remodel or rebuild, due diligence should performed.
Some of the topics discussed so far were:
1. How to evaluate the needs and desires of our community relative to public safety compared to the agency and our community’s current and future needs?
2. Making the case for the funding of a new facility and the benefits of decisions.
3. Obtaining support from both the community and local political entities.
4. Considering funding capabilities and sources for the project.
In summary, the purpose of building a new Public Safety Facility is to provide a safe, attractive, and well-maintained community through support for quality law enforcement services and programs.