An Officer and an Employee: Law Enforcement Facilities as Workplaces
How do you create a comfortable, productive workplace that also functions as a highly secured public building? Two law enforcement departments in Florida have found a way to achieve both goals, blending modern function with form in their new facilities. With the help of Ajax, both Volusia County and the City of St. Petersburg have new facilities that provide the security and functionality necessary to get the job done in an environment where people actually want to work.
The new 22,000sf evidence facility for the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office replaces its aging evidence building, whose flooding and mold issues put the county’s evidence storage accreditation at risk. The new, fully secure building includes offices, a lobby and a covered loading dock as well as areas for evidence intake, processing, archiving and disposal.
Across the state in St. Petersburg, the new 170,000sf police department headquarters raises the bar for what a modern, welcoming police station can be. Housing everything from evidence storage and public records access to investigative services and a state-of-the-art Emergency Communications Center, the new headquarters has redefined the way the department works.
We wanted to think outside the box by designing and constructing a building that would last for several generations of officers but provides all divisions with what they needed to effectively do their job.
To do those jobs, both buildings required sophisticated data and security systems. The St. Petersburg headquarters, in fact, houses a data center for both the police department and the city, plus serves as a backup system for Pinellas County emergency services communications. Needless to say, scheduling and integrating such systems as security, access control, intrusion detection and IT services was complex.
“Every other week we held a technology meeting with the various vendors and the client specifically to coordinate their requirements,” says Michael Wilson, operations manager for Ajax. “If we hadn’t had those meetings, I’m sure a lot of those details would have slipped through the cracks until very late in the game and possibly not have the full functionality the user expected.”
The sensitive nature of both organizations’ work also meant securing the facilities and their contents was a must. The evidence storage areas were designed and built to protect evidence for 100 years, including such measures as intrusion alarms, lockdown access and extensive camera systems. Both facilities are also hardened to withstand the 200mph wind gusts that can occur during Florida’s annual hurricane season.
The tight security, however, didn’t mean either organization wanted imposing, all-metal buildings.
“We didn’t want the building to look institutional,” says Kovacsev. “That ‘battleship gray’ so common to police buildings was not going to fly. We want the public to feel welcome.”
The building’s lobby is a two-story, open space with glass curtain wall so the public can look directly inside. Hanging from the ceiling is a 30-foot eagle’s wing sculpture, which is illuminated at night. The media room doubles as a meeting space for crime watch and public meetings with officers. Warm colors and finishes soften the space and invite people inside.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office had the same goal. Rather than build a metal storage box, the County wanted a space that made the public and feel welcome.
“The former facility was miles away from the Sheriff’s Office headquarters and had a series of gates and barriers to get through,” says Jeremy Cox, Ajax operations manager. “The new building is more like an office so when people walk in, they recognize that it’s a professional setting, which translates into a smoother exchange of property between the evidence owner and the County.”
LAW ENFORCEMENT AT WORK
Perhaps even more important to both departments was welcoming their own staff to the workplace. The softer, warmer finishes of public spaces extend to the office areas, and a number of amenities were added to provide places to decompress from the stresses of the job.
The St. Petersburg headquarters offers break rooms, outside eating areas, wellness rooms and quiet rooms for staff who need a break. Classrooms and conference areas give teams private places to meet or simply talk.
In Volusia County, the new evidence facility reconfigured the way the county processes evidence in off hours, adding a queue on the side of the building where officers can tow in evidence, store it securely and leave it there for the evidence team to tackle during normal working hours.
“At their previous facility, someone on the evidence team would have to come in at all hours of the night to receive evidence,” says Cox. “This addition helped change the culture a bit to acknowledge this can be both a functional evidence facility and a functional workplace.”
Now up and running in their new digs, both organizations can feel the effects of a modern work environment on their productivity and morale.
“The aesthetic of the new station reflects our community-oriented policing model,” says St. Petersburg’s Mayor Rick Kriseman. “The glass and the openness is an illustration of our transparency and our desire to build bridges with our residents. We are proud of what we’ve built, and while it will serve us well in the present, it’s also a gift to the future.”
VCSO Evidence Facility
- Tilt-wall construction approach
- Developed design for new water pump system to improve fire protection water pressure
- Delivered substantial schedule and budget savings
- Targeting LEED® Silver
- Brought data center online while building still under construction
- 1,450 solar panels
- Targeting three Green Globes
VSCO EVIDENCE FACILITY
Size: 22,000 sf
Client: Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
Architect: SchenkelShultz Architecture
Civil Engineer: Zev Cohen & Associates, Inc.
MEP Engineer: OCI Associates
Structural Engineer: BBM Structural Engineers
Completion: February 2019
Size: 170,000 sf
Client: City of St. Petersburg, FL.
Architect: Harvard Jolly Architecture
Interior Design: AECOM USA, Inc.
Civil Engineer: George F. Young, Inc.
MEP Engineer: Engineering Matrix, Inc.
Structural Engineer: McCarthy & Associates
Completion: March, 2019