If you have recently attended a Salem City Council meeting or even picked up a paper, you will see that there is lots of talk about our need for a new police facility in Salem. It is no surprise that there are several different opinions regarding location, size and how much to spend. One thing is clear though – Salem needs a new police facility.
We invest a great deal of money in public safety so I wanted to tour our police station. Last Friday Deputy Chief Steve Bellshaw, with over 27 years of service, was my tour guide. The current station is located downtown at City Hall on Liberty Street. (My initial gut reaction was this is not a very friendly entrance to those who are sworn to protect us. The dark, underground, secluded parking lot does not convey – welcome we are here to help you.)
Have you visited City Hall? When you do you will know that the 3 story cement structure is definitely not up to current FEMA building codes. This is where our officers work and park their vehicles, and therefore, if and when the Cascadia earthquake happens, our first responders will have no vehicles with which to respond. The building will collapse along with anything or body in there.
My most impactful observation: there are many but what stood out the most is the crowded and cramped working space. On average, each department whether it be the Domestic Violence, Robbery and Homicide, K9 Unit, Graffiti, and so on, have about 150 square feet of working space and that is being generous.
Our 24-member SWAT team’s “locker room” has about 50 square feet to change their clothes in as well as store their equipment. Their mobile response unit is a pick up truck with a 10×10 canopy as their control center. They can’t even bend over to lace up their boots without bumping into each other. During emergencies, this lack of space means it takes more time to respond.
There are not enough electrical outlets for the officers to charge their radios. Many officers take them home for recharging.
There is no on-site crime lab. All evidence that needs forensic processing is taken to Keizer. You can imagine when the officer has to testify in court about how many hands have been on the evidence.
Their K9 Unit is simply on 4×8 cabinet with no space to store any equipment.
Again and again through the tour the constant theme of officers working on top of one another, with barely enough room to even pass one another in the hallways.
Salem Police Department hires the finest officers and keeps our city extremely safe. I was incredibly impressed that given the working conditions of the officers they manage to provide the citizens of Salem with the level of service they do. Our officers deserve to have a facility that will allows them to perform their professional duties in the manner they were trained.
Keeping the faith,