Ground broken on new Tacoma police station

Editor’s note: Dana Greenlee’s technology column, which normally runs on Friday, has been bumped this week.

It’s been a long time coming, but ground has officially been broken on a new headquarters for the Tacoma Police Department.

On Thursday, the 119th anniversary of the creation of the city’s police force, members of the police department, city leaders and members of the public gathered at 3701 S. Pine St. for the groundbreaking ceremony.

The event marked only the second time that a new building has been constructed for the Tacoma Police Department.

Construction is already under way, with guest speakers occasionally having to talk over the sounds of large dump trucks moving about the site and tractors digging into mounds of dirt.

The planned $12.7 million, three-story, 72,000-square-foot building is going up in what is now the parking lot area of the old Costco site. It will be the first environmentally-friendly “green” police headquarters in the nation, Mayor Bill Baarsma pointed out.

A renovated Costco warehouse will feature Fleet Services and storage for seized vehicles, as well as other support services such as forensics.

Four substations in various Tacoma neighborhoods will also be built.

In February 2002, 67 percent of those city voters casting ballots said yes to paying for the project through the issuance of up to $34.3 million worth of 20.5-year bonds financed by an annual excess property tax levy.

“This will be a facility we will all be proud of,” said interim Chief Don Ramsdell. “This will be a facility we can finally call home.”

And a centralized home is what the spread-out Tacoma Police Department has wanted for a while now.

“We’ve had a need for a new station as long as I’ve been on the department,” said Jim Howatson, assistant chief.

Baarsma, a self-described history buff, provided some background on Tacoma’s police department and its several homes:

– Ordinance No. 77 was adopted in 1885 to create the police department, with a station located at South 12th and A streets. “We’ve come a long way since 1885, I tell you,” Baarsma said.

– About four years later, the growing department moved downtown to City Hall.

– In 1930, the first headquarters constructed especially for the police department was built. It remained home to the Tacoma Police Department for nearly 30 years.

– The department moved into the new County-City Building in downtown Tacoma in 1959.

The 400-member department was forced to vacate its home from the second floor of that building about nine years ago by faulty sewer lines that leaked into the workspace.

The result was a scattered department, with the chief’s office and Investigations Bureau moving into the third and fourth floors of the County City Building, and 250 patrol officers working out of the former Washington State Patrol outpost off South 38th Street. (Howatson referred to that facility as “the dungeon.”)

Ramsdell said the new police station will provide many benefits, including better internal communication and a re-energizing of the police department, both professionally and personally.

Howatson echoed those sentiments, thanking the community for its support in creating an “efficient, modern police facility to fight crime.”

Baarsma said the new station would help continue the department’s tradition of community policing. “It’s truly a proactive law enforcement strategy,” he said.

The new headquarters, which is being built by Leo Finnegan Construction, Inc. of Tacoma., is scheduled to open in summer 2005.

“Overall, this is the start of a new beginning for the Tacoma Police Department and the City of Tacoma,” Ramsdell said.