Beaverton Public Safety Center takes shape
When Beaverton opens its Public Safety Center in May, it will be the city's first building designed specifically for police and emergency management.
From bringing in criminal suspects and interviewing witnesses to storing evidence and writing and filing reports, officers will be able to carry out those tasks on a single floor. They will have to go up one floor to change into and out of uniforms, eat and receive daily briefings.
Though the building under construction at the southwest corner of Hall and Allen boulevards will house other police functions — and the city's operations center in emergencies — Capt. Eric Oathes says its design is aimed at letting officers do their work more easily.
"The nuts and bolts of a police department is patrol," said Oathes, who is supervising the construction of the project along with Skanska USA Building of Portland, the prime contractor. "Everything else we do is supplemental to the goal of making sure this community is safe. If we can't do that … it does not make any sense. So you try to put the functions together."
The building is scheduled to open in May.
Police are now at 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive, which was City Hall until most city offices moved into a renovated Beaverton Building at The Round on Millikan Way in 2014. Police share the current building with the municipal court, which will remain at Griffith Drive.
The new Public Safety Center is built to withstand a severe earthquake triggered by a fault off the Oregon coast. It has a more inclusive name because it also will house emergency management and the city's operations center, not just police.
Jim Monger, then a captain, led the planning for expanded space for years until he was named interim chief in mid-2016, when he turned over that job to Oathes. Monger retired as chief in mid-2019.
Oathes said nothing in his police training or experience prepared him to oversee construction of a multimillion-dollar project.
"Not at all," he said with a laugh. "You have to go to school for that kind of stuff."
Voters approved a $35 million bond in 2016 for the center, which sits on the former site of the Beaverton Activities Center — and before then, the city library and a supermarket. They rejected a similar bond in 2014 for renovation of the Griffith Drive building. That defeat turned out to be fortuitous, given that the building was designated later to be in a floodplain.
Other firms involved are Shiels Obletz Johnson and FFA Architecture and Interiors, both of Portland.
Total costs are expected to exceed the bond, but the exact amount will be known only after construction is complete.
Oathes said it was easier designing police functions in a new building instead of fitting them into an existing building.
"This building is designed for 80% to 90% of the activities that an officer does in a day," he said. "Once officers are in, they have access to everything an officer needs to have access to."
The Public Safety Center will have three sally ports to allow officers to pull in their patrol cars and put criminal suspects in holding cells without having to take them from a parking lot. There are no sally ports now and only two holding cells in the Griffith Drive building. Suspects can be held only four hours, then must go to the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro or be released.
Small rooms allow officers to interview witnesses in private. Supervisors also will have their offices nearby. Another area is set aside for officers to write reports.
Another ground-floor room will allow officers to store evidence — contraband seized from suspects, items from a crime scene, or property that is unclaimed — without having to go to an offsite location. The Griffith Drive building lacks such storage.
"It does not sounds like a big deal, but each trip can take 10 or 15 minutes transporting things back and forth," Oathes said, and cut into an officer's 10-hour shift. "You also do not want to drive around the city in your patrol car with evidence or property that belongs to someone else."
The new evidence room will use rolling file storage, instead of the standard racks and shelves in currently leased space.
"We will be able to store more evidence in a smaller footprint and in a more efficient manner," Oathes said.
The public will have controlled access through an entrance from Hall Boulevard into a two-story lobby, where they can inquire about records and property. If someone needs to see an officer, the officer will be summoned, and there is space nearby for private interviews.
Oathes said access restrictions are required by federal rules governing who can see data from criminal justice information systems.
A plaza with public art will be built in front of the center once the former Shell gas station is demolished, underground storage tanks are removed and the area is cleaned up under state rules.
"We really do not want 40,000 gallons of fuel in front of this building," Oathes said.
Two ground-floor rooms will be open for scheduled community meetings and the citizens academy that meets for 10-week sessions in spring and fall. Those rooms can be converted to become part of the city's emergency operations center; two adjoining rooms already are designated for use by emergency management.
The second floor will house other police functions — investigations, community service, school resource officers — plus the city's emergency management staff. There is a large common area for meals, plus locker rooms for male and female officers.
Oathes said officers will have individual lockers, but they will get in and out of uniform and clean up in private changing rooms. All eight rooms in the men's area and five in the women's area will have benches, sinks and toilets; five in the men's area and three in the women's area will have showers.
If a transgender officer is hired, Oathes said, that person will use the same changing rooms.
He said there will be far more lockers installed than officers now on the force, but the building is designed for needs anticipated in 2050 and beyond.
The third floor will house the offices of the chief, deputy chief and their staffs.
Portland General Electric is installing solar panels on the roof to generate electricity. In emergencies, there is an on-site generator to enable police and the operations center to function.
Move-in days have not been designated yet, but Oathes said city officials and a contract mover are planning in phases, with patrol and records staff likely to operate at both the Griffith Drive and Public Safety Center sites until the center is running on its own.
"I think they are really excited at the opportunity to have a new facility specifically designed for police work," he said. "A lot of people do not like change, so there is some apprehension, because all the processes for everybody who works at the police department are going to change. But I think they are really excited about having a new building."
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