City seeks solutions to public safety and space challenges

City Hall isn't big enough to serve a city the size of Beaverton
by: Submitted photo DENNIS DOYLE

Earlier this year, I appointed a citizen task force to conduct a facility needs assessment of the city's police department and court. The task force determined that our police and court facilities were woefully inadequate for a community of our size.

When the police, court and other city services moved into the Griffith Drive building in 1986, Beaverton's population was 31,962. Twenty-five years later, Beaverton's population has grown 182 percent. We are now home to more than 90,000 people - the sixth largest city in Oregon. Yet city services are still delivered out of the same building, which serves as our City Hall, police headquarters and municipal courthouse.

Since 1986, the police department has grown 178 percent (from 63 officers to 175). Our building was never intended to meet the current demands for services. The size of our police headquarters is on par with much smaller cities such as McMinnville, Woodburn and Keizer. Of course, Beaverton is more than twice the size of these cities.

Our population growth has had similar impact on our municipal court, which is now one of the busiest in the state.

According to a 2010 operations study of the court, the potential for a serious security incident is very real given the current design of our public safety facilities.

An independent assessment of the needs of our police and court has documented that they are operating in less than a third of the space necessary for safe operations.

Some of the issues our police department face include:

n Police lack private interview rooms for victims to speak with officers. Instead, victims are interviewed in a corner of the City Hall lobby, where people can still see and hear our victims at their most vulnerable, relaying their stories.

n Police lack a sufficient number of in-custody holding cells to keep juveniles and adults and males and females separated. Instead, police are forced to deal with overcrowding issues whenever more than three people are held in custody at the police department.

At the same time that our police and courts are facing these issues, our citizens have voiced their strong desire to improve our community by creating vibrant gathering places.

Through our award-winning visioning process, the public has identified the need for a multicultural center for our diverse citizens and a performing arts center to showcase cultural events.

These community priorities cannot move forward if we fail to support our public safety officers and court staff.

We've worked hard this past year. Our citizen-led groups have evaluated Beaverton's needs for the police, the court, as well as for community and civic spaces. It's my hope that we can build upon that good work.

I'm more committed than ever to working closely with our citizens to deliver on the priorities that will help us build a strong foundation for our future. By working together, we will solve these challenges.