BUENA PARK – After two failed elections and nearly two decades of planning, the Buena Park Police Department has a new home. Two weeks ahead of schedule on Thursday evening, smiling police Chief Tom Monson ushered hundreds of invited guests through the doors of the 66,000 square-foot, two-story police head quarters. For the first time, many of Buena Park’s nearly 100 sworn officers will no longer have to share desks with their colleagues. They’ll enjoy locker rooms with more than one shower, and lockers with forced-air ventilation to dry out those bulletproof vests dampened by after-noon patrols in August. “I never thought I’d see the day,” Sgt. Bill Kohanek said as he led guests past detective’s offices with extra desks that may not be used tomorrow, but will eventually be filled in years in decades to come as the department grows. The new building, which is more than twice the size of the old police station next door, cost just under $40 million. While the final numbers are still trickling in, city officials say the project will come in a little under budget.
The building features an expanded dispatch center, a crime lab, a fully-stocked workout room, and more than twice the space for training and briefings. A walk-in freezer will preserve DNA evidence at zero-degree temperatures. Officers will be able to sharpen their aim at a state-of-the-art shooting range that collects the bullets for easy disposal. “We can actually drive a police car into the range for scenario training,” Monson said.
A new jail will be able to hold up to 36 prisoners, up from 16. The Police Department is looking into giving some prisoners the option of paying to serve their sentences at the Buena Park jail, rather than the more crowded county facilities. The department’s old home was 25,000 square feet when it was built in 1963 with federal Civil Defense money. Buena Park got the funds because the city didn’t have a bomb shelter during the height of the Cold War, and the station got built on top of one. Most offices are in the basement shelter, which is lined with heavy concrete that made it difficult to install phone and Internet lines. Mayor Don McCay—himself a Buena Park officer for 32 years—remembers it well.
“I started in the old building in the 1960s and there were parts of that building that were no good then, but we made it work. This,” he said, gesturing at the new facility behind him, “is the end of a long process. “McCay credited former police Chief Richard Tefank for campaigning for a new building. “He bit the bullet, started complaining…and got the ball rolling” in the 1990s, McCay said. Twice before, city voters turned down bond sales to build a new police headquarters. One ballot measure failed by 40 votes. In 2008, the City Council approved money for the project with a mixture of city and Redevelopment Agency bonds. The new building will be slowly populated over the next few weeks. After that, the top floor of the old station will be torn down and rebuilt as a community center. Some of the recreation personnel will move to the new building from the Ehlers Community Center across town, allowing expansion of that facility for more senior activities.
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