City officials have announced they intend to start identifying potential sites for a new police headquarters building. They say they want a site that is 10 to 13 acres, is in a central location and has easy access to key facilities such as the Douglas County Jail, municipal and district courts and City Hall.
Also, there’s a possibility that city and county officials would consider a facility that could accommodate both the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Lawrence Police Department, as the current Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 11th and New Hampshire streets once did.
Having a joint facility or even a combined law enforcement agency might improve efficiency or reduce costs, but, so far, county officials have been cool to such plans. Specifically, Sheriff Ken McGovern is concerned about moving his offices from their current location because his officers are responsible for providing security to the courts that are located there.
Even though city officials say they need a much bigger site for the police headquarters, the desire to be closer to the courts and the sheriff’s office may prompt them to look again at expanding the current Law Enforcement Center. In past years, both the city and county have seen South Park as an attractive, convenient, inexpensive site on which to build buildings or parking lots. Hopefully, there will be no consideration of sacrificing another piece of this beautiful park to accommodate a city or county facility.
Not too many years ago, this relatively unspoiled park, which was set apart early in the city’s history, had the picturesque elevated gazebo on the east side of Massachusetts Street and a well-used and highly popular softball field at the northeast corner of the property west of Massachusetts Street. That was it.
Since then, a huge parking lot has been added on the east side, and, on the west side, a new city Parks and Recreation building, a wading pool and a large playground area.
Enough of this park has been eaten up by structures and facilities. The city needs more and larger parks. Neither South Park nor any other city park should be considered for a large law enforcement project. In fact, city parks should be off-limits for further development of any kind.