The critical scarcity of space to conduct routine business at Salem’s current police headquarters results in more lost time and money than most people realize.
The Friends of Salem Police have made it a top goal to educate voters on the inefficiencies of a building erected in 1972, when the force was smaller and the daily demands less complex.
Modern policing requires officers carry gear that no longer fits into outdated lockers. On any given day, the narrow locker room where officers prepare for work is pinched for space, with materials piled high and tools of the trade stuffed into whatever spaces can be found.
“With all our bags and a rifle that we have to take out to the car, we end up getting loaded down like Sherpas,” said Officer Cort Kirksey, who often works the overnight shift.
“Trying to fit it all in is quite a task at times. And because we live in the Pacific Northwest, with all that rain, our stuff gets wet and doesn’t dry. It begins to smell and sometimes gets moldy.”
The changing area in Keizer’s newer police facility has lockers that are huge in comparison. “You could probably fit a body in there,” Kirksey says with a smile. “Plus, they have fans to circulate the air to dry things out.”
Beyond that, the Keizer HQ has plentiful outlets to recharge radios and work telephones. For lack of those in Salem, officers recharge their equipment at home.
In 1972, there were eyewitnesses but no iPhones.
As policing has evolved, the physical space at the Civic Center has remained the same.
A Parking Deck Is Not a Luxury But a Security Necessity
Opponents of the new police facility have questioned the need and cost for adding a parking deck.
But the women and men who use the inadequate parking spaces in the Civic Center understand the vulnerabilities that come with having vehicles accessible to the public. “Anybody intending to do us harm could easily lurk in that unsecured area, waiting for us to come out,” said Officer Kirksey. “We are vulnerable to being booby trapped and you name it. We’ve been very lucky in that we haven’t had any major incidents, but it’s only a matter of time.”
The new facility will not only provide secure parking for department members but will also allow for the SWAT team and bomb squad’s fleet of armored vehicles to all be under one roof. The Civic Center complex has not been able to accommodate large vehicle parking for some time now. An off-site compromise has the vehicles scattered across the city. When an emergency arises, precious time is lost by not having the fleet centralized.