With police training methods making headlines in the national news, architects are reinventing police academies and stations in ways that are reshaping the North American jurisdictions where law enforcement methods are taught and practiced.
A surprising mix of technology, government reinvention, and enforcement methods are transforming today’s police forces, according to Janice Barnes, Ph.D of Perkins+Will – the global architecture and design firm behind such projects as the New York Police Academy, the Toronto Police Service Training Facility, and the Los Angeles Rampart Station.
“A wave of big thinking is now reshaping how police learn and work,” says Barnes, coauthor of the recent white paper, 21st Century Training Academy: Planning Principles. “Everything from open-plan workplaces and GPS applications to social media use and predictive policing are being brought in to help improve public trust and increase public safety. Plus we see many creative approaches, such as innovative community partnerships, cross-service collaborations, and programs to share experience from retired officers.”
Among the innovations being advanced by Perkins+Will New York for new police stations and training facilities, Barnes notes the following:
- Workplace innovation. Like any work or study environment, police officers now expect more mobile and activity-based work. “New facilities need a collaborative structure for teaming, often with a joint collaboration space,” says Barnes, “and they often look like open office environments. Much like project rooms in any industry, police use these immersive environments to tackle more complex problems while maintaining visual presence of the work.”
- Technology adoption. “Training areas and other police facilities demand technological sophistication,” says Barnes. “Increased use of body-mounted cameras, tablet computers, drones, acoustical technologies, and new protective gear all are complicating the requirements for training facilities, police stations and vehicles. Pervasive technologies enable quick data access, more interconnected problem-solving, and improved awareness of the relationships between various efforts. These technologies in turn require new ways of thinking about space provisioning, power/data as well as the training necessary in order to best leverage their value.”
- Stress reduction. Given the degree of stress that officers often carry, there is an increased need to provide stress relief. “Physical training – such as cardio, cross-fit, rope climbing, and mat work – not only improves on-the-job skills but also provides much needed stress relief. Combined with informal interior gathering spaces such as lounges and kitchens — and exterior areas of respite like gardens, patios, balconies, terraces – these all serve to improve the quality of life for staff as well as officers,” says Leigh Christy, an associate principal at Perkins+Will.
- Sharing best practices. “Increasingly, police forces around the continent and the world over are sharing best practices,” says Barnes. “This level of connectedness, whether through the International Association of the Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum, or the regional shared trainings and leadership meetings, brings significant value. Policing culture is very collaborative, leveraging knowledge to build capabilities faster, to do more with streamlined budgets and to integrate continuous improvement.”
- Community policing. This strategy is being implemented to great success across the nation. “This fundamental advancement in the relationship between officers and the communities they serve produces new facilities remarkably different in their look and feel,” says Nick Seierup, FAIA, design director of Perkins+Will’s Los Angeles office. “Next-generation police stations are visually transparent, open and inviting. They welcome the community within – all while still providing invisibly the requisite security needed for officers.”
- Improved efficiencies. With budgets tight and resources often a challenge, more police forces are implementing strategies to spur innovations, boost productivity and reduce obstacles to effective enforcement, says Barnes. “These include collaboration with local universities for ongoing training, collaboration across governmental agencies to advance strategies, community-building to increase public participation in safe streets programs and reevaluation of deployment strategies to better align responses to activities.” she says. “These efforts are complemented by greater operational efficiencies, such as investments to reduce energy and water, in order to reduce the cost of maintaining facilities over time.”
- On the street. “Police chiefs want patrol personnel on the street instead of in the building,” says Phil Callison AIA, regional practice leader of Perkins+Will’s Dallas office. “We spend a great deal of time observing daily flow of personnel especially at shift changes, the busiest time in a police station.”
By carefully organizing daily tasks and spaces such as personnel parking, patrol car drop-off, fitness room, locker rooms, the briefing room, equipment checkout areas, mailroom, report writing area, breakrooms, and the like in the optimum relationship and flow, precincts can handle shift changes more smoothly and quickly. This, in turn, puts patrol on the street faster.
Also, says Callison, by introducing opportunities for social interaction all along the way – such as creating a police “Main Street” as in a recent design – not only do processes become more efficient but the also become much more enjoyable and fulfilling for police personnel.