HGTV for police stations
February 17, 2017 7:17 AM   Subscribe

What makes police station buildings good? What would you like to see as a community member or police officer?

I'm looking specifically for permanent features of the buildings, from layout to benches outside, favorite locker room amenities or what might make you more comfortable going in to make a report.
posted by sepviva to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As a community member, I want not to be intimidated. So that means a comfortable lobby with friendly signs, landscaping, and art. Small scale and not in the style of GRAND PUBLIC BUILDING. A receptionist (even if behind safety glass). Essentially, the kinds of things that make people want to enter retail stores but what you're buying is public safety.

My police station also has bike parking and flowers right up front. I like that.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:29 AM on February 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

My interactions at the local PD have always been in the order of "routine business," and probably the toughest thing I've had to deal with at a PD involved going to see a senior officer about a case where I had an employee (and neighbor) being looked at for a matter I felt very confident he had no guilty knowledge of.

In this case the officer was senior enough to have his own office, and we were able to talk there, but it impressed me that PDs should really have quiet, secure places to talk that are NOT interrogation rooms for victims and concerned citizens to talk to an officer in. Or else make interrogation rooms pleasant enough (and the access control equipment concealed enough) that people are not additionally stressed out by entering them.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:38 AM on February 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

Highest on my list: Don't have tighter security than the buildings I worked in when I was stationed in Iraq. I get it, they do sensitive and sometimes dangerous stuff. The entire building doesn't have to reflect that.
posted by Etrigan at 7:43 AM on February 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

I would like the holding cells to have 1 seat for each guest. Sitting on the floor sucks as does the atmosphere created when a bigger stronger person comes into the holding area and there are no available seats.
posted by AugustWest at 7:49 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The police station in my suburb has two major related flaws. First, even though we're a pretty walkable community, the police station is not located in the heart of the business district. It's in a largely residential area away from things to do, public parking, etc. It has its own parking lot for walk-ins, but the effect is that no one will ever just drop in. You only go to the police station if you plan to. Second, it's set back pretty far from the street. There's a long driveway and the lot is heavily wooded. You can't really even see the building from the street if you're driving by. The effect is that it's not really part of the community. In our case, it doesn't really have to be; we're a low-crime suburb and most citizens probably don't ever interact with a police officer. But I think that's important for most communities, considering the metaphorical distance between the police and a lot of the communities they're supposedly protecting.

On the other hand, I read an article recently about a police station that put a basketball hoop up in its parking lot and invited the neighborhood to play pickup games against cops who were on their lunch breaks. That's what I think makes a good police station. You want people to feel comfortable, even friendly, around the officers, not adversarial.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:50 AM on February 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

A safe, accessible, free-to-the-public meeting space of decent size with clean bathrooms (and parking) and is really really important in a lot of communities.

Public libraries are great, but can be limited on hours.
Restaurants are great, but you usually have to buy something at least (shitty when you're poor) and they're not always accessible for limited mobility folks.
Schools are great, but it's real hard to get access to a school after hours if you don't have a personal connection.
Adequate seating, table space, etc is hard to come by anywhere that's not specifically set up for groups of people.
Also, if you live in a dangerous area, coming to an unfamiliar place to meet with strangers can be a huge safety roadblock.

The Bridgeport area Girl Scouts here in Chicago have their leaders' meetings at the 9th District CPD Station, and imo that's an example of a police station working very well for the community, at least in this limited capacity. They have a bookable community room, available parking outside, and people feel safe coming there. No one gets interrogated when they enter, they just say they're here for Girl Scouts and get pointed to the room. And because the station is staffed at all hours, as long as no one else is booked for the room, no one is rushing folks out if the meeting goes over time.

Community groups need safe, clean, free places to meet, and as public buildings that should be there in service of the community, police stations ought to provide that.
posted by phunniemee at 7:58 AM on February 17, 2017 [14 favorites]

One of the things cop shops have been doing lately is providing spaces for people who buy/sell things on the internet to meet in a place that is decently safe. If I were the cops I might try to actually capitalize on this and use it as an outreach opportunity.

Police stations serve a number of different roles but, like the public library, they do serve EVERY single person (or should) and I'd make this clear with a lot of indicators

- accessible spaces for parking, accessible restrooms, as barrier-free as you can make it, bicycle parking. Don't make the place a bunker.
- pro-family setup, presuming parents may be coming with children, things for kids to do or look at
- tech awareness, possibly wifi or places to charge devices if people might be there a while
- low key indicators that the space is SAFE, rainbow flags, refugees welcome, pamphlets for people dealing with difficult issues like substance abuse, domestic violence, food insecurity

Of course a lot of this architecture won't be that useful if the people working there can't walk the talk, so some sort of training/awareness about these same issues (accessibility, tech, family, inclusion diversity) and how to make them real and not just lip service.

Also depending on your climate, outdoor spaces for hangout or meetups
posted by jessamyn at 8:07 AM on February 17, 2017 [11 favorites]

I like that my police department suggests using their lobby as a place to meet for Craigslist/etc transactions. It's indoors, has comfortable seating, bathrooms, and a water fountain, and it's open 24/7 with cameras and assistance available if it's required (though nobody's sitting at the front desk after usual business hours.) It's also the lobby for city hall generally, which probably helps it feel less intimidating than it might, and it's right next to all the community sports facilities and the post office.
posted by asperity at 8:10 AM on February 17, 2017

Also depending on your climate, outdoor spaces for hangout or meetups

This is another great suggestion. If you can include an outdoor space--even a small one, perhaps with a playground jungle gym and a basketball hoop with a few benches or picnic tables, that would be wonderful. Got a lot of space? Let nearby schools have a few community garden plots or paint a mural.
posted by phunniemee at 8:16 AM on February 17, 2017

Here's a recent FPP about an architect designing police stations that might be inspirational.

Making them a useful space for the community is really valuable -- free wifi, community use rooms, clean available restrooms, etc.
posted by Fig at 8:38 AM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Similar to kevinbelt's concerns: our police station / headquarters in the heart of an urban neighborhood adjacent to a Historic District with lots of gorgeous but kind of shabby brick architecture from turn of last century with stoops lining the street and no set back. Instead of being part of the street and respecting the 'vibe" (aesthetic) of the neighborhood, basically the neighbors or people passing the neighborhood look at a blank windowless concrete wall. The parking lot and public entrance are around the back, not visible from the street at all. The part of the parking lot that you can see is enclosed by high chain link and the only barbed wire in the neighborhood - and was usually 4/5s empty so was just a blank space in the neighborhood fabric. For a long time there wasn't even clearly marked or lit pedestrian access, so if you were on foot you basically had to share the driveway with the cars and walk entirely around the building to enter because there were no street facing doors unless you had an access badge. It was if they were out in the suburbs with no actual people living down the block that might have business. Even if you were in a car it wasn't obvious where you were supposed to go to get into the building as a member of the public because you couldn't see the door and there was no signs even indicating that you were at the right building. To their credit the new policy academy classrooms space that is located in the historic district is located in a restored historic building, rather than a new one, and was built out explicitly with community space. And they have enthusiastic open houses. I do appreciate that the station uses their ridiculous amount of underused parking to partner with the nextdoor Humane society to do cute animal adoption events.
posted by DarthDuckie at 1:51 PM on February 17, 2017

I think there are a lot of good answers here on the community side. On the officer side? An ironing board nook in the locker room and a quiet place to nap.
posted by hollyholly at 3:31 PM on February 17, 2017

I've been to a few, and the thing NOT to do is treat me like a criminal from the moment I step foot in the building. Have a goddamn lobby and make it spacious and nice, like a bank or a hospital. I shouldn't have to buzz in and stare in a camera until I hear the click. The first thing I see when I walk in shouldn't be a glowering person behind bulletproof glass demanding a good excuse why I should be there. Most business I might have to conduct at a police station probably doesn't need to be in the "secure area" where they're holding the criminals for interrogation. It's just an office building, not a fortress.

I mean, for fuck's sake, cops, banks get robbed all the time, but the employees are still out there doing normal things. The person coming in for a bicycle registration or to make a noise complaint doesn't need to be in the concrete room with no doorknob on the inside.

I admit most of it is just the attitude of the tough-guy cops themselves, but the design of the building sets the tone from the get-go.
posted by ctmf at 9:36 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

ctmf's comment applies to the exterior as well. here is a counter-example, the Albert Speer Memorial Police Fortress AKA The Colorado Springs Police Operations Center. Doesn't it just say, "We're not afraid to use a baton during questioning"?
posted by j_curiouser at 10:49 PM on February 17, 2017

Outside or inside space to meet Craigslist/ebay/etcetera people to complete transactions - bcause that dude might have a reasonably priced bookshelf to sell but that doesn't make him a completely unknown variable. I am absolutely not speaking from personal experience.
posted by Verba Volant at 11:07 PM on February 17, 2017

Multicultural art, including art by Indigenous artists from the region wherever applicable.

The Toronto Old City Hall, which now houses the city's Criminal Court, has a huge, 2-storey high stained-glass window depicting a group of modern-ish white labourers (in the background of the stained-glass window is a scaffolding around the Old City Hail building itself, which was built in 1899) meeting a group of white merchants in robes, and the lone Black figure in the window is shirtless and barefoot. It's ridiculously Eurocentric, echoing the negative treatment of PoC in the legal system, and I know a number of PoC who hate seeing it, especially on their way into an already-biased courtroom. So being wary of art that celebrates colonization would be cool.

In countries where the land was stolen from Indigenous populations, a posted land acknowledgment would be appropriate.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:48 AM on February 18, 2017

Thanks all! I'll report back if I'm able to implement any of these.
posted by sepviva at 12:43 PM on March 19, 2017

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