New police HQ updated, expanded

Published 10:40 pm Monday, August 3, 2009

For the Suffolk Police Department, today is a special day.

Not only does the department have National Night Out activities this evening, but also the ribbon will be cut to its new headquarters this morning.

“It’s incredibly a step up from where we were,” Capt. Dean Smith, commanding officer of the department’s administrative division, said.

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The 17,500-square-feet, $5.7-million building replaces the smaller, outdated headquarters built in 1962. The new building incorporates the latest innovations in design, security and law enforcement technology — all of which were difficult to retrofit into a building older than most officers on the force.

“With all the changes in law enforcement, you really have to change your facilities to make it work,” Smith said while giving a tour of the building Friday.

As he spoke, workers unloaded furniture, painted columns and put other finishing touches on the building. The new facility hosts the department’s central files, property and evidence processing, the forensics unit, criminal investigations, special investigations, information technology, administrative offices and holding cells.

The extra space in the building — everywhere from the records room to the break room — will be especially beneficial to the people who work in the building every day, Smith said. It’s an improvement over the other building, he added.

“It was designed for a police department that had 10 square miles,” Smith said of the old building, built before the merger of the town of Suffolk with the surrounding Nansemond County.

Besides more space, the modernizations include a card-access system, mobile shelving for high-density records storage, more secure evidence storage and an updated forensics laboratory.

Just off the lobby is a report-taking room, so that officers will not have to lead citizens through the maze of secure portions of the building, Smith said.

The high-density records storage, mailroom and conference rooms also are located near the front of the building. Farther back, more secure areas are behind two card-access points to make breach of the system more difficult.

The interview rooms are set up with cameras to tape-record interviews, an essential part of police work. The laboratory has a specialized chamber in which to perform chemical tests, which keeps hazardous fumes away from the technician and carries them out of the building.

The community is invited to the ribbon cutting, which will feature special recognition of retired police chief William Freeman. The ribbon cutting for the building, located at 111 Henley Place, is scheduled for 11 a.m.