Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Salem PD should refuse to remain where they are a month longer

New Police HQ, Coming Up!

Interesting post over here on the issues about siting a new police fortress on the current civic center site.

What is being lost in all this politics is that we're talking about scores, possibly hundreds of lives lost if the forecast Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits tomorrow.

What the chief of police ought to do is inform the Mayor and Council that, based on the seismic studies to date, the police want out of City Hall NOW, and then the council ought to develop a plan to evacuate the police HQ within 30 days by taking over two or three existing structures.

Command level folks, detectives, and administrative support should go into the idle bank building at Liberty and Chemeketa, and there should be a north precinct for patrol officers (say, Portland Road) and a south precinct (on Mission, where there is abundant idle property).

It's still risky leaving police in there another 30 days, and our luck could run out at any moment, but at least our public safety force would not be caught under three floors worth of concrete when the Big One happens.

What is intolerable is making the police remain in the basement of City Hall while we argue about a replacement, and then coming to the voters and saying that we have to build a $70 million building on the existing site or else we're condemning the police to being crushed in an earthquake.

The people who are putting the police at risk are the people who have not followed through on what the earthquake warnings are telling us: Get the people out now, figure out the permanent home(s) after that.

Once the police are safely out of the Big Pancake To Be, then all of us -- meaning all of us, the stakeholders who are supposed to write the checks to pay for it -- can debate the pros and cons of a single site vs. dispersed sites for public safety. We can have the time to build consensus on the buildings.

Most important, for every part of town, we should be thinking in terms of building real community centers, places that serve multiple purposes -- where police, Cherriots, new Library branches, and social service agencies can all share support services (IT, water, sewer, utilities) co-locate in shared facilities with multiple uses that bring disparate folks together instead of insisting on a segregated, separated single-use-only model for all public buildings.

Such facilities would go a long way to combating the isolation and fortress mentality that the current hideous city hall does so much to promote. When you work in a building that Albert Speer would have loved, it's hard not to view your town as conquered territory. What we should want for our police is to have them be parts of the community because they are in and of the community, with easy opportunities for interactions with everyone.

Imagine if the police precincts, located next to public library branches, accessible to all on Cherriots and by bicycles, also had indoor gyms and basketball courts for the police to use -- and that could be shared with residents too. That's the kind of thing that builds connection between community members and police.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Interesting ideas. I wish they would be seriously considered. Personally, I'd feel a lot better about the Salem Police Department, or any police department, if it was dispersed around a community in, as you said, a non-military non-fortress fashion.

Sure, I could easily visualize a south Salem station in the old Safeway building on Commercial Street, or somewhere else. People would feel a friendly police presence nearby. Have a coffee shop attached where citizens could mingle with officers. (And, yes, serve donuts also.)