Lawrence police see improvements in communication, efficiency in new headquarters, hope to see more with future campus

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Lawrence Police Department headquarters at 5100 Overland Drive.

The Lawrence Police Department has settled in to its nearly $20 million home in the northwest part of town, and it’s seeing improvements in operations that it had hoped to see with the new facility.

Since moving into its new headquarters, 5100 Overland Drive, about seven months ago, the law enforcement agency has noticed better communication and efficiency, LPD officials told the Journal-World recently.

Major Trent McKinley said the new facility rectified the previous situation in which its operations were being split between two facilities. Formerly, LPD operated out of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St., and the Investigations and Training Center, 4820 Bob Billings Parkway.

“We essentially divided our department in half, with certain functions on one side of town and certain functions on the other side of town,” McKinley said. “This just corrected that situation.”

The approximately 50,000-square-foot building has centralized the vast majority of the department’s operations. Lt. David Ernst said LPD has not only seen better communication among different divisions, but also within the divisions themselves. For example, LPD detectives are working on the same floor in the new headquarters, which was not the case previously.

But the total vision for LPD’s headquarters is not complete, as some operations are still located in a separate facility or outside of the department’s facilities altogether. LPD still uses the Investigations and Training Center building, despite an original plan to sell it. Additionally, the department must use a third-party’s shooting range in the southern part of Douglas County for gun training.

The agency still hopes to see more efficiencies with a future phase of the expansion project, which would create new training and shooting range facilities — and that could cost another $13 million.

But if or when those improvements will come is unclear. While LPD has requested additional facilities for those purposes, the City of Lawrence currently has no official plans to provide them.

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photo by: Mike Yoder

A training and briefing room in the Lawrence Police Department headquarters is one of the many new conference and meeting spaces for the agency.

Along with most of the department’s staff working under one roof, other improvements have included more briefing and conference rooms where officers and administrators can meet and more comfortable interview rooms where officers can meet with the public.

Ernst said that in the past the department’s interview rooms were spread between the two LPD locations, which would sometimes result in detectives speaking to individuals for the same case on different sides of town. While it wasn’t necessarily a hindrance, having the interview rooms under the same roof does make it easier for the detectives to work together on the case.

Additionally, the facility has allowed for better organization of evidence and more lab space for processing evidence.

The centralized location is also much easier for the public to find, Ernst said. The department now has a public lobby at the front of the headquarters — a contrast with the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, which wasn’t so straightforward. That former facility also houses the Douglas County District Court, the District Attorney’s Office and a law library, among other things; it also requires the public to clear security to enter.

“You don’t have to go through security (anymore),” Ernst said. “You can walk right in and speak to an (LPD) employee almost immediately.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

A public lobby of the Lawrence Police Department’s headquarters, 5100 Overland Drive, provides better public access to the police.

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Originally, the city and police department envisioned all operations close together. It’s still possible that could happen, as additional facilities could be built near the headquarters to create an LPD campus, but that is not likely to happen soon.

As the Journal-World reported in 2014, city commissioners said at the time that they intended to sell the Investigations and Training Center building if voters approved the sales tax increase attached to the project. However, voters rejected the proposal and the city abandoned the then-$28 million version of the headquarters plan.

Rather than scrap the project altogether, the city moved to a phased approach, which has so far resulted in the current version of the headquarters. That also meant that LPD would continue to use the ITC building. It currently houses the agency’s training operations and its Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates complaints against officers.

But the city is currently evaluating all of its properties, including the ITC building, for future use decisions, such as selling or repurposing, city spokesman Porter Arneill said in an email.

photo by: Mike Yoder

An intake room at the Lawrence Police Department headquarters allows for better organization and handling of evidence.

But if a sale of that facility were to take place, McKinley said LPD would need to find a new location for its training. So it may not happen until the city starts the second phase of the project, which includes building a new training facility and an indoor shooting range.

Similar to the training facility, the shooting range situation isn’t ideal either, McKinley said. Currently, LPD uses an outdoor shooting range owned by the Lawrence Fraternal Order of Police, which is not a government agency. Additionally, the range is located on rural property near Lone Star Lake, more than 10 miles from the headquarters.

While the department hasn’t had any issues with using that facility, which it must rent to use, it is owned by an outside third-party, and the department doesn’t have control over it. McKinley said that’s the only facility in Douglas County that is currently available for shooting use.

The range’s distance from Lawrence makes it less efficient for gun safety training. McKinley said the department would prefer to have its own range near the headquarters for easy access.

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New facilities for those specific purposes could be in the future, though. Both an indoor shooting range and a police training facility are mentioned in the city’s five-year recommended capital improvement plan, listed for the 2022 and 2023 budgets.

However, they are both currently unfunded, meaning the city leadership has received a request for them but doesn’t have any specific plans for the projects to commence. Arneill confirmed that the city has no official plans for those projects.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A private interview room is located just off the public entrance lobby of the Lawrence Police Department headquarters.

According to the capital improvement plan, the gun range is estimated to cost $6.5 million, while the training center is expected to cost $6 million. Along with a $600,000 weather protection canopy for LPD vehicles outside the headquarters, the plan lists a total of $13.1 million in future improvements.

McKinley said an ideal location for those facilities would be on the city-owned land surrounding the current headquarters.

“Eventually, what we would like to do is to have all of those facilities in one campus area,” McKinley said. “We do have enough land … to have all of those types of functions in one place.”


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