From the biometric fingerprint access and the Kevlar-lined lobby walls, right down to the intimidatingly secure holding cells, UCLA's newest building is purpose-built to be a police station – and it's the first time the campus police department has had that luxury.
When they complete their move-in on Monday, Feb. 22, it will mark the first time they've had real holding cells for suspects; the first time they'll be able to interview distraught victims in a private room; their first community meeting room, their first secured parking area and more.
Capt. Manny Garza gives a tour of the new station, starting with the Kevlar-lined lobby. Once inside the lobby, visitors can't go anywhere but back out again without fingerprint access or an escort.
"It's wonderful," said UCPD Capt. Manny Garza of support operations, who has headed up the move from the temporary station on Kinross Avenue to the new station on Charles Young Drive South. "Kinross is a perfect example of the environment that we had, where we had to squeeze the functions of a police department into any old space. Now, we finally have something built for us."
The police are also looking forward to making the half-mile move back to campus, to the northwest corner of Westwood Boulevard and Charles Young. Since late 2007, they've been closer to Wilshire Boulevard than Bruin Walk. Returning to a brand-new facility on the corner where the old station stood puts officers near the heart of campus and makes it easier for Bruins to swing by for non-emergency visits they might otherwise delay or skip.
"We're excited about the new building and being better able to ensure that the safety needs of the campus community are met," said Chief James Herren. "The new building provides the department with a modern facility built to ensure the best possible service."
The doors open at 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22, when about 60 police, 40 civilians and 90 student community service officers and EMTs will start reporting to 601 Westwood Plaza. An as-yet unscheduled open house will take place once the officers get settled in. Unlike the old station, the new structure meets earthquake standards, ADA requirements for the disabled (including a handicap-equipped restroom in the custody area) and environmental standards high enough to receive a LEED silver certification.
Garza demonstrates the biometric locks.
"In the old station, things were falling apart,” said Nancy Greenstein, director of the Police Community Service Bureau. “We had asbestos, it was poorly rated on the earthquake safety measures, it had no elevator, it didn't have a real holding cell — we called it the 'jail closet.' We had second-hand and fourth-hand furniture, and no space to grow. It looks so nice and spacious now. There's room for the people in the department to really do their jobs."
At about 23,800 square feet, the $20 million station is twice as big as the old building and makes use of open stairwells, large shatter-proof windows with wide open views onto Westwood Boulevard and the occasional skylight to let in the sunshine. The two-story station is divided into a series of self-contained suites from which a person can only enter or leave using fingerprint scanners at the doors. Even the elevator is fingerprint-activated.
A new property office allows officers to pass evidence from the main station into the secure property room through two-way lockers that only property officers can open. Dispatchers, who have remained on campus for past two years, separated from the rest of the police force, moved into their new high-tech room earlier this month.
"It's huge that we'll be together with the rest of the police department again," said Laura Herrera, the Communications Center manager. The center has banks of computer and TV screens, a scrolling Bruin Alert readout, its own kitchen and sleeping quarters since it’s staffed 24-7, and is larger than the previous dispatch center, Herrera said. "The biggest change," she said with relish, "is we have a window."
Dispatcher/operators Sergio Castaneda, seated, and Drew Cox in the new Dispatch Center.
The station also boasts a narcotics room ventilated separately from the rest of the building, a dedicated bag-and-tag evidence counter, a locked, thick-walled armory, rows of high-density shelving and filing cabinets, a pair of pay phones out front and the pervasive smell of new carpeting and furniture throughout the building.
There are locker rooms, sleeping quarters for emergencies, a briefing and training room, dedicated areas for reviewing video evidence, sound-proofed doors and countless other features.
"Some thought was really put into making the building serve our needs," Garza said, after completing a tour of the station. "It's a wonderful place."