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Closer Look: Inside TPD’s need for more space

New headquarters in the works for 2024
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Posted at 5:56 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 23:27:19-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Space limitations, parking problems, and just old age are all challenges Tallahassee Police Department faces in their current headquarters on East Seventh Avenue.

Right now, a new headquarters is in the works, but the department will be in its current space for at least another two years. ABC 27 got an exclusive look at the challenges within the department and the need for a new, multi-million dollar facility.

It’s a building that has stood the test of time. Tallahassee’s Police Department has been housed in its 70,000-square-foot building on East Seventh Avenue since the 1970s. As the city has grown, so has the department.

“Space is a huge issue,” explained TPD Police Chief, Lawrence Revell. “We have areas like our criminal investigations bureau where cubes are right on top of one another, and they’re packed into every space.”

It’s not getting any better. In 2017, a report put together by Architects Design Group and presented to city leaders showed 585 staff within the TPD. The chief says they’re now up to 602 and have 33 more openings to fill.

Filling those positions means filling more space in the former school building that is out of room to grow.

“When you have an agency of over 600, when you try to do things like ‘all-hands’ meetings or even try to have community events we have to do all of things outside this building,” the chief explained.

Parking is another issue. Empty spaces in the gated, secure lot can be hard to find.

“We have 602 employees, and we have 178 spots here at the police department,” the chief added. “People are parking on curbs and anywhere they can find somewhere to park.”

A solution is in the works.

Jay Smith is Vice President of AJAX Building Company. In fall of 2021, ABC 27 talked with him about the work his firm has been doing to clear land at the site of the old Northwood Centre.

“This will give them opportunity for a consolidation of a lot of their different services that are taking place all over the place into one complex, it's a new secure site,” Smith said.

Detective Russ Underwood with TPD said the project will make a huge difference in how they operate.

“We have to do a lot of inventory just to keep up with things,” Underwood explained. “There’s not a whole lot of room in here with each of the different units having to fight for space.”

Mobile trailers house equipment as evidence takes up more and more space in the secure basement of the current headquarters.

AJAX says the new HQ will be about 170,000-square-feet and make way for more community engagement.

“We have to work together to keep Tallahassee safe,” the chief added. “The police department itself is never going to solve all the crime. The police department itself is never going to solve all the social issues. By building partnerships and trust, that’s where we start having an impact.”

With plans for a community room in the new complex that can welcome up to 300 people, the chief said he plans to build stronger bonds with the communities his department serves.

AJAX says the estimated cost to build the new headquarters is $76 million. The chief says they’re still on pace to be in the new building by the end of 2024.