HIGH POINT, N.C. -- The High Point Police Department broke ground Friday on a new headquarters located off Westchester Drive.
“I think an important part of this is that it shows the commitment from the city and the citizens to give us what we need and that’s not what we see a lot of times across the country," Chief Kenneth Shultz said. "This is a morale boost for our officers.”
The move is something people in the department have been looking forward to for years.
“This has generated a lot of excitement for a lot of our community members, especially those that have been at the police department for a number of years and are finally seeing what’s been talked about for some many years come to pass,” Lt. Matt Truitt with the High Point Police Department's Community Engagement Unit said.
The department has been located in a building off Leonard Avenue since 1985. It was originally an elementary school, and the department has had to be creative with how they use the space.
Even creating interview rooms meant finding ways to soundproof the walls.
And office space is hard to come by. For example, in one former classroom, there are five people from all different departments squeezed in. There isn't room for enough tables and chairs in the room where morning briefings are held, so officers are left standing.
“With the new police department, we are going from 26,000 square feet to approximately 80,000 square feet. We are housed in one building currently with most of our work, but we have those two other places. With our new police department, we’ll no longer be using the Habersham location. It will be obsolete for us,” Truitt said.
The increase of space also means more areas for collaboration and working together, something the department says will help them significantly in their work.
“You have office areas, much larger open areas for everyone to have meeting areas, conference room areas. But specifically, that conference room area is vital for all of our training being housed in one building,” Truitt said.
This is also going to help with a lack of storage space the department struggles with now.
"When it comes to storage for evidence, we have a very small area right now. Some of it’s inside the building. Then we have an alternate location on this property. We just have grown out of that. Why? Because it was designed for a population of about 70,000, and we’re almost at that 115,000 mark,” Truitt said.
There are also big improvements to safety with the new building, both for officers and for the public.
“Currently how the building is set up, if someone is starting a day care or they have a taxi permit, there’s a secure area they have to come in, and it’s possible they’ll have to come into contact with prisoners because there’s only one scan system for fingerprinting. With the new police department, there’s going to be a separate area where you come into the front of the police department. It’s a much more secure area that keeps the public safe, and it also keeps them away from the prisoners,” Truitt said.
There's also more safety features for the actual building, including better fencing around the perimeter of the building. It also fixes a problem the department currently has when it comes to bringing prisoners to the building.
“We will have a sally port at this new location where prisoners can be driven in a police car so they can be processed. And as soon as the police car comes in, that door comes down. If they try to escape it will be almost like a cartoon. They’ll run into a wall, and that’s all they have,” Truitt said.
He also emphasized that moving the headquarters does not mean the presence of law enforcement in the area will be any different.
“So response times will not change, the presence of patrol officers in that area, none of that will change. It’s just that this location will be taken away and placed in another area,” Truitt said.
"The police department is our officers, and the people that are doing the work," Shultz said. "The way we’re set up, we don’t dispatch from the police department for calls for service, what we do is we’re strategically placed around the city.”